N.B.A. Power Rankings: Warriors on Top at Midseason


3. Toronto Raptors (29-12)

The Raptors generated little excitement entering the season, but that’s largely because few envisioned the transformation in DeMar DeRozan’s game, which features more 3-pointers and a greater commitment to the pass, or the formation of a younger, better bench, which has helped fuel a 58-win pace. Although no one is picking the Raptors to win the Eastern Conference just yet, this certainly looks like the best team in Toronto’s history.

4. Houston Rockets (30-11)

A spate of recent injuries has stunted James Harden’s Most Valuable Player Award campaign and, of greater consequence, made it a bit harder to justify a top-five spot for the Rockets even after their gaudy 25-4 start. But the additions of the defensive aces Luc Mbah a Moute and P. J. Tucker, in support of the All-Star newcomer Chris Paul, make Houston perhaps the most dangerous threat to Golden State in either conference — provided everyone gets healthy.

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The Cavaliers remain a favorite to reach their fourth successive N.B.A. finals for one big reason: LeBron James.

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (26-16)

The Cavaliers are an abysmal 29th in defensive efficiency. They have played the N.B.A.’s second-easiest schedule thus far. And only recently has the key figure acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade, Isaiah Thomas, come back from injury. Yet such is the leaguewide respect for LeBron James, in his 15th season, that Cleveland remains a huge favorite to reach a fourth successive N.B.A. finals — even when so much statistical evidence suggests we shouldn’t treat the creaky Cavs as such a shoo-in.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-16)

It’s only a matter of time before the longest playoff drought in N.B.A. history, now spanning 13 seasons, is officially over. Jimmy Butler’s M.V.P.-worthy impact at both ends has been so instant and dramatic that the Wolves, who didn’t even reach the postseason in Kevin Garnett’s last three seasons in Minnesota, are on a 52-win pace — despite the inevitable news media fixation on how much Coach Tom Thibodeau relies on his starters.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (23-20)

It took longer than the Thunder hoped, but Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are figuring it out, looking more and more like a group built for the postseason. Despite a worrisome 8-12 start, Oklahoma City is up to fourth in the league in defensive efficiency and 12th in offensive efficiency. Only two teams at present — Golden State and Toronto — rank in the top 10 of both categories, which is typically a trusty measure of elite status.

8. San Antonio Spurs (29-15)

A partial tear in Kawhi Leonard’s left shoulder — not long after a lingering quadriceps ailment cost him the season’s first 27 games — sounds ominous and caused this uncharacteristic plummet to the back of the top 10. But you know the rules by now: Never write off or assume anything with the Gregg Popovich-coached Spurs. Especially when Manu Ginobili remains a crunchtime wizard at age 40 and when the long-quiet Leonard is the star of a new (and fun) “I was hacked” Foot Locker commercial.