NBA Power Rankings: Suns and Warriors stay at the top

 2 days ago

NBA power rankings: Now that the NBA season is in full swing, it’s time to rank all 30 teams. With things spiraling a bit out of control due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s hard to gauge where teams are.

In our weekly NBA power rankings installment, we’ll attempt to do just that while acknowledging that some struggles are due to shortened rosters.

1. Phoenix Suns (Last week: 1)

Record: 37-9
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The defending Western Conference champs now top our NBA power rankings after having won seven consecutive games. Devin Booker is playing elite basketball. This team is clicking on all cylinders. Right now, it has to be seen as the odds-on NBA title favorites.
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2. Golden State Warriors (Last week: 2)

Record: 35-13
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Some Stephen Curry struggles coupled with Draymond Green’s injury had Golden State in the midst of a stretch that has seen it lose five of eight. The good news? The Warriors won three of four last week, including victories over the Jazz and Mavericks. Klay Thompson also seems to be almost completely back.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (Last week: 3)

Record: 32-17
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis will be a tough out in the playoffs. It has proven over and over again that the young team can go up with the big boys. Why? The MVP-caliber performance of Ja Morant. He has the Grizzlies in the midst of a stretch that has seen the team win 13 of 16. Memphis now boasts the third-best record in the Association. That’s craziness!

4. Chicago Bulls (Last week: 4)

Record: 29-17
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan is a legitimate NBA MVP candidate at this stage in the season. Game-winners on back-to-back nights earlier in the month adds another layer to this. Unfortunately, the Bulls have now run off a stretch that’s seen them lose five of six. That included an embarrassing 42-point home loss to the Warriors earlier in the month. Also Read:
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5. Miami Heat (Last week: 6)

Record: 30-17
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders, these Heat are a legit conference title contender. The Phoenix Suns found that out first-hand over the weekend. Other teams have recently, too. Miami has come out on top in 12 of its past 16, ascending our NBA power rankings in the process.

6. Milwaukee Bucks (Last week: 7)

Record: 30-19
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Having lost six of eight, these Bucks fall down a tad in our previous NBA power rankings. The good news? Giannis Antetokounmpo is fully back. The two-time MVP is averaging 30.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists in his past 13 games. Milwaukee won three of four last week.

7. Utah Jazz (Last week: 5)

Record: 30-18
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Utah’s two recent losses to the Warriors were troubling in that Draymond Green wasn’t playing for Golden State. This began a stretch that has now seen the Jazz drop eight of 10 after a 26-9 start to the campaign. Things will turn around. It’s just a matter of time.

8. Brooklyn Nets (Last week: 8)

Record: 29-18
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With Kevin Durant now lost for the long haul (sprained MCL), things really aren’t going swimmingly for the Nets. They have lost nine of 14, including two consecutive defeats at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brooklyn desperately needs Kyrie Irving to get that shot in the arm so he can play home games.

9. Philadelphia 76ers (Last week: 11)

Record: 28-19
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris have returned from bouts with COVID-19, things have turned around big time for Philadelphia. The Sixers are in the midst of a stretch that has seen them win 13 of 17 with Embiid going off during that span (34.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 4.2 APG).

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (Last week: 9)

Record: 29-19
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

For Cleveland, it’s going to be all about this young core coming together. At 29-19 on the campaign, that’s already happening. The upstart Cavs have won seven of eight and find themselves with the fourth-best record back east. The trio of Darius Garland, rookie Evan Mobley and MVP canidated Jarrett Allen have this team rolling. Also Read:
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11. Dallas Mavericks (Last week: 10)

Record: 27-21
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a team that’s played some great ball recently. After a pedestrian 16-18 start to the season, Dallas has won 11 of 14. Its supporting cast continues to step up behind Luka Doncic, who is now showing flashes of returning to his previously dominant play. Unfortunately, Tim Hardaway Jr. is out for the long haul with a foot injury .

12. Denver Nuggets (Last week: 12)

Record: 25-21
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s really hard to gauge the Nuggets right now. They are still without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Any team missing two of their top-three players would struggle. While Nikola Jokic has returned after missing some action, there’s still no timeline for Murray’s return. Meanwhile, Porter Jr. could be lost for the season.

13. Charlotte Hornets (Last week: 13)

Record: 26-22
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Up and down. That’s been the story of these Hornets all season. They followed up winning eight of nine with a three-game losing streak, including an ugly defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets, before defeating the Atlanta Hawks. Charlotte has turned it around since, winning 10 of 15 — including victories over the Nuggets, Bucks (twice) and 76ers.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves (Last week: 14)

Record: 24-23
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

The level of inconsistency in Minnesota has to be considered alarming. This team started out 3-1 with a great win over the defending champion Bucks mixed in. It then lost eight of nine before a stretch that saw the Wolves win nine of 13. This team is a legit playoff contender. Also Read:
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15. Boston Celtics (Last week: 16)

Record: 25-24
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

If the season were to end tonight, first-year head coach Ime Udoka and the Celtics would once again take part in the play-in tournament. The good news? Boston has won five of six with Jaylen Brown averaging 24.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists during that span. They’ll need him to continue playing at this level behind Jayson Tatum in the pecking order.

16. Toronto Raptors (Last week: 17)

Record: 23-22
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Even being forced to play in an empty arena ( Canada COVID-19 protocols ), Toronto has broken from some early-season doldrums. Nick Nurse’s squad has won 7 of 10 and is firmly in the playoff conversation back east. That primarily has to do with the return of Pascal Siakam to All-Star levels.

17. Los Angeles Lakers (Last week: 20)

Record: 24-24
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The sprained MCL Anthony Davis suffered last month against the Minnesota Timberwolves is yet another obstacle for these Lakers to overcome. They now sit at a mediocre 24-24 on the season. Head coach Frank Vogel is firmly on the hot seat. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook has been an utter disaster (29% shooting, 17% three-point past five games). OUCH! The good news? Ant is back.

18. New York Knicks (Last week: 15)

Record: 23-25
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ugly with a capital “U.” New York is 17-22 since a 5-1 start to the season, including two defeats at the hands of the hapless Orlando Magic. However, there’s some positivity here. The Knicks just pulled off a trade for Cam Reddish and have been playing more inspired ball — winning five of eight.

19. Los Angeles Clippers (Last week: 19)

Record: 24-25
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It was always going to be a struggle without Kawhi Leonard in the mix . Paul George and Co. knew that. Starting out 1-4, that seemed to be the case. After a solid start to the season with George looking like an MVP candidate, things are now on a downward trajectory. That includes George himself being out at least another few weeks with a torn ligament in his right elbow . Also Read:
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20. Washington Wizards (Last week: 18)

Record: 23-25
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington had lost 17 of 27 since a recent stretch that saw the team win four of five. That includes victories over the magic (twice) and Thunder. Yeah, we’re going to have to see more from Bradley Beal and Co. in order for this team to move up too much. A recent four-game losing streak doesn’t bode well.

21. Atlanta Hawks (Last week: 22)

Record: 21-25
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta has just been a complete and utter disaster in recent weeks. Even with Trae Young putting up his numbers, the Hawks have lost nine of 15. Of those nine losses, six have come by double-digits. Fresh off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, Atlanta has to be seen as the most-disappointing team of 2021-22. It shows in our most-recent NBA power rankings. Also Read:
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22. Portland Trail Blazers (Last week: 21)

Record: 20-27
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

It might finally be time for Portland to blow this whole thing up. Their long-time general manager is out. Damian Lillard just suffered a setback in his abdominal injury and could be out for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, we’re expecting an active deadline from this struggling organization.

23. New Orleans Pelicans (Last week: 24)

Record: 18-29
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Things just took another turn for the hapless Pelicans with news that star forward Zion Williamson suffered a setback in his return from a foot injury and has no timeline for return . Even with some recent solid play, NOLA will not be relevant under he returns.

24. Indiana Pacers (Last week: 25)

Record: 17-31
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Another team that is hoping a change of culture under a new head coach will lead to on-court success. This has not happened for Rick Carlisle and Co. through 44 games. Indiana boasts the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference while ranking in the bottom half of the Association in points, points allowed and defensive rating. It has also lost 10 of 11, potentially leading to changes ahead of the NBA trade deadline.

25. Sacramento Kings (Last week: 23)

Record: 18-31
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The good feeling that came with some decent play under interim head coach Alvin Gentry has given way to major on-court struggles. Sacramento has lost nine of 12. An historically bad recent loss to the Boston Celtics has Sacramenton questioning everything right now.

26. San Antonio Spurs (Last week: 26)

Record: 18-30
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Having lost 10 of 12, these Spurs now boast the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference. They are on pace to lose 50-plus games for the first time since 1996-97. Perhaps, that will net them another Tim Duncan type player in the 2022 NBA Draft. Don’t bank on it! Also Read:
NBA MVP Race 2021-22: Steph Curry slumps, Joel Embiid enters conversation

27. Oklahoma City Thunder (Last week: 27)

Record: 14-33
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Losers of seven out of their past eight, the Thunder have still found a way to stay competitive. Six of those seven losses came by a combined 34 points. The question here is who’s going to step up behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and stud rookie Josh Giddey. Luguentz Dort has proven he might be capable of doing that.

28. Houston Rockets (Last week: 28)

Record: 14-34
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After winning seven in a row from Nov. 24 to Dec. 8, the Rockets are right back near the bottom in our most-recent NBA power rankings. Stephan Silas’ squad has lost 16 of 21 since then. Now, there’s rumors that star forward Christian Wood could be traded after some drama between him and the organization.

29. Detroit Pistons (Last week: 29)

Record: 11-36
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

These Pistons have actually performance much better as of late, boasting a 3-3 record in their past six games after a 7-30 start to the campaign. The hope here is that Detroit’s young roster, led by Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey, continues to improve.

30. Orlando Magic (Last week: 30)

Record: 9-39
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been an exercise in futility for first-year Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley. The team is on pace to lose 67 games. They have been outscored by an average of 9.0 points per and just have not been competitive.

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