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NBA power rankings: 76ers, Clippers trending in opposite directions since James Harden trade

Here’s Chinmay Vaidya’s updated power rankings after the third week of the 2023-24 season.

Indiana Pacers v Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 12, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

There’s a saying in sports people like to use. The film doesn’t lie. And when we look at the film, James Harden may have significantly miscalculated his entire offseason and future.

The Los Angeles Clippers have lost five straight contests, with Harden featuring in the last four. The guard effectively made this play for a trade to LA in part because he believed he was still a superstar and potentially the missing piece for this team becoming a title contender. And while the Clippers are certainly still capable of winning a championship, this is going to take more time than people may have expected. Harden has been a combined -67 in four games, including a -28 in Sunday’s loss to Memphis. That isn’t good enough, especially for a player who is on an expiring deal hoping to land a max extension he didn’t get from his previous team.

That previous team, the Philadelphia 76ers, are absolutely rolling. The Sixers have rattled off eight straight wins and get a shot at the Boston Celtics on Wednesday of this week. Joel Embiid is playing like the reigning MVP and Tyrese Maxey has elevated himself into the superstar conversation as he looks for an extension of his own. The rotation pieces from the Harden trade have been integrated and are clearly buying in. All of a sudden, the 76ers look like they could be buyers at the trade deadline for a big fish. Would Pascal Siakam or DeMar DeRozan take them over the top? Daryl Morey must be ecstatic right now.

Another team with links to Harden and Morey appears to be figuring things out too. The Houston Rockets have won six in a row, and that rebuild appears to be ahead of schedule. The additions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks have been positive, while Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun appear to have taken the leap. The Minnesota Timberwolves are also setting the tone early with wins over the Nuggets, Celtics and Warriors.

The New Orleans Pelicans have cooled off significantly after a nice start, losing five in a row. Zion Williamson has been in the mix, but CJ McCollum is out indefinitely with a collapsed lung and the depth pieces have not been able to make up for rotation players being out. If New Orleans doesn’t find a way to make up for McCollum’s production, Williamson and Brandon Ingram have shown they aren’t enough to make this team a playoff contender.

Here’s a look at the full power rankings after the third week.

NBA Power Rankings After Week 3

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