The post-2024 All-Star break Eastern Conference NBA power rankings

Who are the favorites to make it out of the East after the NBA All-Star break? We re-rank every playoff contender's title chances ahead of the final push to the postseason.
Miami Heat v Boston Celtics
Miami Heat v Boston Celtics / Maddie Schroeder/GettyImages
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Card-carrying contenders

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

Donovan Mitchell
Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Record: 36-17; Net rating: plus-5.8

Having won 18 of their last 20 games, the Cavaliers are the hottest team in the NBA. Even though they may be flying under the radar, their talent should be getting more attention. 

Donovan Mitchell is playing at an MVP-caliber level, and Jarrett Allen has become a fulcrum on offense and the anchor of the league’s top-ranked defense since the turn of the calendar. Evan Mobley and Darius Garland are back from long injury hiatuses. Besides the Celtics, no team in the East has a starting lineup with this much proven, All-Star talent. 

They might not be taken seriously because (a) last season’s playoff flameout and (b) they’re the post-LeBron James Cavs, but they have the profile of a serious contender. Take them seriously.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee Bucks v Houston Rockets / Tim Warner/GettyImages

Record: 35-21; Net rating: plus-3.1

It’s been a raggedy season for the Bucks who seem behind on building chemistry between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, fired Adrian Griffin and hired Doc Rivers halfway through the season and have lost more games than they’ve won since making the chance – but, dangit, I still believe in them.

Even though the wins aren’t there, the process has been better on defense. The Bucks surprisingly rank ninth in defensive rating since Rivers took over. Players are playing more decisively and seem more committed to executing the scheme. The stuff in transition is getting cleaned up.

But the real reason I can’t quit the Bucks is because, in crunch time, they still have the hardest puzzle to solve in the East bracket: the Giannis-and-Dame pick-and-roll. They haven’t run enough of it during the season for my liking but, when they do, it works. Good luck to any team trying to stop it.

1. Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum, Caleb Martin
Boston Celtics v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Record: 43-12; Net rating: plus-10.3

To put any team above the Celtics coming out of the All-Star break would be both ignoring everything this team has accomplished so far this season and holding its past postseason shortcomings against them.

But this is a much different team than the one that lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals last season and against the Warriors in the 2022 Finals. Joe Mazulla has his feet under him in his second season, the team added Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday and Jayson Tatum has taken a mini-leap.

Even when you take away garbage time, as Cleaning the Glass does, the Celtics are first – by far – in net rating. They’ve won more games than anyone in the league and have lost only three times at home, which seems relevant if they are the No. 1 seed.

It doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten, but the Celtics are the team to beat in the East.