NBA Power Rankings: 3 sleepers who could make a second-half run at the title

These three teams have an opportunity to turn heads and make a second-half run at the NBA Championship.

2024 NBA All-Star Game
2024 NBA All-Star Game / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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With the NBA’s 2024 All-Star Weekend officially behind us, the season’s stretch run is here.

Teams across the league have roughly 30 games (or less) to finish 2023-24 strong, with some zoning in on their pursuit of an NBA Championship – but only one franchise can separate themselves from the rest of the pack. 

The inception of the NBA Play-In Tournament in 2019-20 has elongated the battle for playoff positioning in recent seasons, creating an intriguing and closely contested race to be a top-six seed in each conference and avoid having to participate in the event altogether.

Last year, we saw the Miami Heat become the second No. 8 in league history to reach the NBA Finals after competing in the Play-In Tournament. Could we see another dark horse team make a magical second-half run at the title this season? These three potential sleeper teams have what it takes to win it all.

NBA Finals Sleepers Power Rankings: 3. New Orleans Pelicans

Sitting at 33-22, the New Orleans Pelicans find themselves in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, leading the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks by one game for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the West.

Basketball Reference’s playoff probabilities report gives them an 84.7 percent chance of being in the top six, with a 2.1 percent rate to win the Finals.

The Pelicans rank seventh in the NBA in defensive efficiency rating (1.101) and 12th on the offensive end of the floor (1.143), illustrating that they are one of the most balanced teams in the league. A team that can beat you in multiple ways on both ends of the floor is scary come playoff time – no team will want to face the Pelicans in a best-of-seven series.

Concerns for New Orleans in recent seasons have stemmed from injuries, not a lack of talent. They have a legitimately deep 10-man rotation, led by their star duo of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Now, Williamson and Ingram are healthy and primed to make noise in the postseason barring any unforeseen circumstances.

While they may have to choose one over the other this upcoming offseason, for now, they boast one of the most dynamic duos in the NBA.