NBA Power Rankings: Cream Rising To The Top – We gave the NBA rankings a week off, and boy, did things change in that two-week period. The league is starting to right itself somewhat, with the title favorites moving their way to the top of the rankings.
But there are still some interesting starts to the season, ones that we’re very interested to see if they continue. For now, let’s take a look at our latest power rankings, with records through play on Jan. 11.
NBA Power Rankings 1-10
1. Los Angeles Lakers (8-3)
Last ranking: 11
Los Angeles makes a big jump to the top, which is where the defending champion will likely be for a while. Despite having LeBron James and Anthony Davis sit out some games, the Lakers have gone 6-1 since our last ranking.
2. Boston Celtics (7-3)
Last ranking: 19
The last time we checked in on the Celtics, they were 1-2. Let’s just say they’ve gotten a little better since then. Boston is just getting by, though, with a scoring margin of just plus-1.8 per game, and it’s currently dealing with a string of COVID-19 postponements.
3. Milwaukee Bucks (7-4)
Last ranking: 20
Milwaukee has been enjoying home cooking, going 5-1 at Fiserv Forum. In contrast to the Celtics, the Bucks are winning easily, outscoring opponents by 11.6 points per game.
4. LA Clippers (7-4)
Last ranking: 10
Los Angeles is starting to put things together. Kawhi Leonard definitely looks healthy again, scoring 35 points, including tying his career-high with seven three-pointers, in a win over the Bulls on Sunday.
5. Phoenix Suns (7-4)
Last ranking: 4
The Suns continue to look like a potential playoff team, sitting just a game out of the top spot in the Pacific Division.
6. Indiana Pacers (6-4)
Last ranking: 1
The Pacers have fallen off a bit from their quick start, but there is still plenty to like about Nate Bjorkgren’s squad. A 4-3 home record is definitely something that needs to improve.
7. Utah Jazz (6-4)
Last ranking: 7
Go ahead, try to figure out the Jazz. Road losses by 34 at Brooklyn and 12 at New York are followed up by a 13-point win at Milwaukee. Still, going 6-4 while playing just three of its first 10 games at home is an accomplishment for Utah.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (6-4)
Last ranking: 3
Don’t look now, but Damian Lillard may not be the only All-Star guard playing for the Trail Blazers. CJ McCollum (28.1 points per game) leads Portland in scoring and is making clutch shots, like Monday night’s game-winner against Toronto.
9. Philadelphia 76ers (7-4)
Last ranking: 14
We want to like the 76ers. But between COVID-19 troubles and losing three straight games, Philadelphia still needs to show us something.
10. Golden State Warriors (6-4)
Last ranking: 25
Vintage Stephen Curry? We’re here for it. The Warriors are starting to become more of a unit of late, with Curry leading the way, ranking second in the league in scoring at 28.6 points per contest.
NBA Power Rankings 11-20
11. Dallas Mavericks (5-4)
Last ranking: 21
The Mavericks are another team we were expecting better things from, though a three-game winning streak has them above .500 and making their way up the standings and rankings.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-4)
Last ranking: 17
Speaking of hot teams, the Thunder have won three straight. Could it be Oklahoma City management just can’t put together a team that can tank?
13. Charlotte Hornets (6-5)
Last ranking: 22
Early Rookie of the Year favorite LaMelo Ball is worth giving the Hornets a watch alone, but this team is starting to put things together. Charlotte heads into Tuesday’s action tied with Boston for the longest current winning streak at four.
14. Orlando Magic (6-5)
Last ranking: 5
The Magic have come down to Earth a bit after a 4-0 start. Orlando has dropped three in a row and now is on pause with its game with Boston on Wednesday postponed.
15. Denver Nuggets (5-5)
Last ranking: 18
Nikola Jokic for MVP. Averages of 24.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 10.4 assists would all set career bests for the sixth-year center, not to mention put him with Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook in an exclusive club of averaging a triple-double.
16. Atlanta Hawks (5-5)
Last ranking: 2
The Hawks are another team that isn’t playing well at home, currently sitting at 2-3 at State Farm Arena after a win over the short-handed Sixers on Monday night.
17. San Antonio Spurs (5-5)
Last ranking: 13
The Spurs are another team that has been on the road for a majority of the first few weeks of the season, playing just four home games. That might not be a bad thing, though, as Gregg Popovich’s squad is 1-3 at home.
18. Miami Heat (4-4)
Last ranking: 16
The defending Eastern Conference champions are dealing with COVID-19 — seven players were put on the team’s health and safety protocol list on Monday — and inconsistency, with the team alternating wins and losses for the first eight games.
19. New York Knicks (5-6)
Last ranking: 24
Yep, Tom Thibodeau is the coach of the Knicks. New York ranks second in the league, allowing just 105.5 points per game. Unfortunately, the Knicks are also second to last in scoring, managing just 100.1 points per contest.
20. Brooklyn Nets (5-6)
Last ranking: 15
When everyone is healthy and playing together, the Nets are dangerous. But so far, that hasn’t been the case very often, with Kevin Durant sidelined for a few games due to COVID-19 contact, and now Kyrie Irving out for “personal reasons.”
NBA Power Rankings 21-30
21. Sacramento Kings (5-6)
Last ranking: 8
Sacramento got a big win on Monday night, edging the Pacers to snap a two-game losing streak. The Kings defense must improve, though, having already given up 144 points to Toronto and 137 to Golden State.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-6)
Last ranking: 6
Remember when we talked about the Knicks having the second-best offense but the second-worst defense? Guess who New York is second to in both of those categories?
23. New Orleans Pelicans (4-5)
Last ranking: 9
Three straight home losses have the Pelicans below .500. And after a postponed game with Dallas, New Orleans gets to face the Clippers on the road.
24. Memphis Grizzlies (4-6)
Last ranking: 23
No Ja Morant. No Jaren Jackson Jr. Hard to complain about a 4-6 record in those circumstances.
25. Houston Rockets (3-5)
Last ranking: 27
The Rockets are winless on the road, but they also need to get healthy so all their main players can develop some chemistry.
26. Chicago Bulls (4-7)
Last ranking: 30
Chicago has dropped three straight, but Zach LaVine has been special, averaging 27.7 points per game. The Bulls could use some consistency, starting 0-3, winning four of five, then dropping their last three.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-7)
Last ranking: 12
The Timberwolves have tumbled in the standings and rankings after a 2-0 start, dropping seven straight before edging the Spurs on Sunday.
28. Washington Wizards (3-8)
Last ranking: 29
The Wizards have the league’s leading scorer in Bradley Beal (34.9 points per game), but for how long if the losing continues?
29. Toronto Raptors (2-8)
Last ranking: 26
The losses of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency have not been good for Toronto, with starting center Aron Baynes contributing just 5.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
30. Detroit Pistons (2-8)
Last ranking: 28
The Pistons have yet to win on the road and have the worst point differential in the Eastern Conference at minus-6.6. Another long season in Motown.