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NBA power rankings: Lakers showing life, Joel Embiid’s injury throws wrench in 76ers plan

We’re sorting the contenders, pretenders and tankers as the NBA season moves along.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023-24 NBA regular season enters its most interesting week with the trade deadline taking place. This is where we will not only get more clarity on which teams believe they can win the championship this year or set themselves up to be consistent contenders, but also which teams might throw in the towel.

The Los Angeles Lakers looked completely lost heading into the trade deadline, with LeBron James tweeting about an hourglass and even sitting out a rivalry game against the Celtics. Anthony Davis was also sidelined in that game but the Lakers won and then snapped the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak. James and Davis are healthy, even if they do come on the injury report regularly. There’s reason to think there’s a contending team here even if the record doesn’t show it. James should focus on being the best he can on the court, because his supporting cast has just stepped up in a big way recently.

The Cleveland Cavaliers did not falter much during a period of injuries thanks to the play of Donovan Mitchell, and now get two key starters back in Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. Garland and Mobley’s return makes this team a threat, even if last year’s playoff disappointment lingers. The Cavaliers have won five in a row entering Monday’s game against the Kings and suddenly sit third in the East.

The team previously in third, the Philadelphia 76ers, are once again dealing with a Joel Embiid injury issue. The reigning league MVP has opted for a surgical procedure on his meniscus injury, which is sure to eliminate from contention for repeating as the league’s top individual player. The question now is how long the actual recovery will be, because Embiid’s presence changes the trajectory for this franchise entirely. Philadelphia goes from a title threat to a pesky playoff team, so we’ll see what his prognosis ultimately is.

Here’s our fourth championship index for the 2023-24 NBA season.

Contenders

1. Boston Celtics (+300 to win title on DraftKings Sportsbook)

2. Denver Nuggets (+450)

3. Los Angeles Clippers (+600)

4. Phoenix Suns (+1200)

5. Milwaukee Bucks (+550)

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (+2000)

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2000)

Fringe Contenders

8. Philadelphia 76ers (+1400)

9. Cleveland Cavaliers (+4500)

10. Los Angeles Lakers (+2800)

11. New York Knicks (+2800)

12. Miami Heat (+3000)

13. Sacramento Kings (+5500)

14. New Orleans Pelicans (+7000)

15. Dallas Mavericks (+4000)

16. Indiana Pacers (+7500)

17. Orlando Magic (+18000)

Pretenders

18. Chicago Bulls (+60000)

19. Utah Jazz (+60000)

20. Houston Rockets (+60000)

21. Atlanta Hawks (+30000)

22. Golden State Warriors (+6000)

23. Brooklyn Nets (+100000)

Tankers

24. Memphis Grizzlies (+100000)

25. Toronto Raptors (+100000)

26. Portland Trail Blazers (+100000)

27. Washington Wizards (+100000)

28. Charlotte Hornets (+100000)

29. San Antonio Spurs (+100000)

30. Detroit Pistons (+100000)