NBA Power Rankings: 12/31-1/6

NBA Power Rankings: 12/31-1/6

by January 7, 2022 0 comments

Welcome to 2022, where the NBA will soon take center stage in the sports world. Whenever the calendar turns to the new year, more eyes start turning to the sport. Likewise, it seems to be when teams begin to think about whether they have the pieces to make a run or not. The trade deadline has snuck up on people this year, and will it will be telling which teams will be buyers or sellers. COVID is still the hot topic, and some teams are still dealing with serious roster issues.

30. Orlando Magic (-1)

There is a new team at the bottom of the rankings, but it is a familiar face. The Orlando Magic has the longest losing streak in the NBA, and there is not a lot of good to say about this team. Mohamed Bamba returned from health and safety protocols and should give this team some help. One guy to look at for the Magic to trade is Terrence Ross. Ross could provide some scoring value to a contender, and Orlando should be listening.

29. Detroit Pistons (+1)

The Pistons snapped a three-week streak of being the lowest-ranked team in the power rankings. They were only able to move up a spot, however. Detroit is tied with Orlando for the fewest wins in the NBA with seven. However, the Pistons did pick up two solid wins over San Antonio and Milwaukee this week. A big reason for that was Saddiq Bey. Bey has proven he could be a long-term piece for Detroit and has been their second-best player this season.

28. Houston Rockets (+0)

It was not the best week for the Rockets, and some of it had to do with off-court stuff. Kevin Porter Jr and Christian Wood were both thrown out for refusing to check back into the game against the Nuggets. Both guys did come back strong and were able to take down Washington. It is never good for a team to be dealing with locker room issues, especially one as young as Houston.

27. Indiana Pacers (-3)

Indiana is on a six-game losing streak, and things look to be coming apart for this team. It was interesting to see Lance Stephenson have a good game for the Pacers against the Nets. Stephenson was an important member of the Pacers for a few seasons, but it speaks to the dire situation they are in now where he has to actually play. The six-game losing streak is the second-longest in the NBA. This is a team that is supposed to be active at the deadline, and that is the storyline to watch with this team.

26. New Orleans Pelicans (-1)

New Orleans faced one of the toughest three-game stretches that any team has faced this season. They lost all three games against Phoenix, Utah, and Milwaukee this week. After having a stellar couple of weeks, Brandon Ingram hit a wall this week. Ingram had two bad games and missed another, which was detrimental to the team, who is starving for firepower.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2)

This week, the Thunder got a big win over the Knicks, which was the big highlight. Rookie Josh Giddey was also the youngest player in NBA history to notch a triple-double. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his solid play, although it did drop off a bit this week during losses to Dallas and Minnesota.

24. Portland Trail Blazers (+2)

Portland has been playing without their two biggest stars in CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, who have been outperforming expectations. Anfernee Simons deserves a lot of attention for being the leader of the team and stepping up in those two players’ absence. Simons hit nine three-pointers on his way to scoring 43 points in Portland’s win over Atlanta on Monday. This team did lose to the Lakers and Heat afterward, but performing well without your best players deserves a bump in the rankings.

23. San Antonio Spurs (-4)

The Spurs did not have a good start to the week, losing three straight games. They did bounce back with a win over Boston on Wednesday, but it was still tough after the Spurs had been playing so well. It is worth pointing out that the Spurs were without Dejounte Murray for all three of the losses this past week. Murray has been one of the league’s better guards over the past month and is the most valuable member of the Spurs.

22. Sacramento Kings (-1)

On Wednesday, Sacramento had a really avoidable loss to the Hawks, who were playing without Trae Young and John Collins. This team is still missing Richaun Holmes, but there is no excuse for losing that game. The Kings did beat the Heat this week but also lost to the Mavericks and Lakers. This team is still in the playoff bubble, but they need to win the games they should if they want to get in.

21. Atlanta Hawks (+1)

The Hawks had an inexplicable loss to Portland on Monday to start their west coast trip. However, they did bounce back in a must-win game against Sacramento. Young had one of the season’s best performances, tallying 56 points and 14 assists in a losing effort versus the Blazers. This team is expected to be active around the trade deadline. Look for the Hawks to try and upgrade their defense, which has been among the worst in the league.

20. New York Knicks (-2)

It was a tough start to the week for New York without Julius Randle, but they did look better in his return. The Knicks did not look good in losses to the Thunder and Raptors, but that was to be expected without Randle. The one player that seemed to play well this week was RJ Barrett. Barrett was a spark on offense, and New York will need more of that from him if they want to get back to the postseason.

19. Los Angeles Clippers (-8)

The Clippers are in survival mode without Paul George, and the early returns are not great. While Los Angeles did get a big win over the Nets, they also had losses to Toronto and Minnesota. The area where this team misses George and Kawhi Leonard the most is on the defensive end. The offense has been solid, with Reggie Jackson and Eric Bledsoe leading the way. However, the defense has been in a bad spot in recent weeks, and it may stay that way.

18. Boston Celtics (-1)

It was an interesting week for the Boston Celtics. It started with a great win over Phoenix but also included an overtime victory against the lowly Magic and a loss to San Antonio. The highlight of the week for Celtics fans might have been Jayson Tatum returning to the lineup. However, Jaylen Brown scored a career-high 50 points against Orlando and played well in Tatum’s absence. Brown has been a part of trade rumors in the past, but it is doubtful that Boston pulls off such a move.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves (-1)

Minnesota went 2-2 this week, and only in one of those games did the Timberwolves have all three of their best players. Anthony Edwards was the only one of the big three that managed to play in every game, and he was great in the absence of the others. Losses to the Jazz and the Lakers was tough, but they did well to bounce back with wins against the Clippers and Thunder.

16. Washington Wizards (-2)

Washington had a rare week, losing on not one but two buzzer-beaters. One came against the red-hot Chicago Bulls, and the other came courtesy of the Rockets. On the bright side for the Wizards, Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma were fantastic this week and carried the team offensively. As a result, Washington managed to win two games this week and remain firmly in play for a play-in spot.

15. Toronto Raptors (+8)

One of the biggest risers in the power rankings this week has been Toronto, which is due to a 4-0 week. The biggest reason for this kind of play has to be the return of Fred VanVleet. VanVleet has been fantastic and averaging nearly 30 PPG. The other guy worth mentioning has to be Pascal Siakam. Siakam has been steadily getting better, and this team is better because of it. The Raptors are finally healthy and could make a run to the postseason.

14. Denver Nuggets (-1)

Denver went 1-2 this week despite Nikola Jokic averaging nearly 26 PPG, 16 rebounds, and almost six assists. Those are crazy numbers, but Denver still struggled to find wins despite all of that. Aaron Gordon looked fine in his return this week, but the rest of the supporting cast was lackluster.

13. Los Angeles Lakers (+2)

The Lakers had a great week and won every game on the schedule. LeBron James is starting to make yet another MVP case, despite the slow start to the season. What had to be a welcome sight for Lakers fans had to be Malik Monk this week. Monk provided a spark on offense, and it was much needed with Anthony Davis still out with an injury.

12. Charlotte Hornets (-2)

The Hornets scored 140 points on the Pistons on Monday night and bounced back after two losses earlier in the week. Charlotte lost to Phoenix and Washington, and they still boast the NBA’s worst defense. A lot of guys contributed on the offensive end this week, and that is what continues to make this team so dangerous to play.

11. Dallas Mavericks (+9)

The biggest move in the power rankings this week comes courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic returned this week and led Dallas to a perfect week. This team got their biggest win of the season on Wednesday night, beating Golden State. Dallas managed to play well this week with Kristaps Porzingis out. This team finally looks to be hitting their stride for the first time this season.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (-1)

Cleveland has had to deal with injuries all season and is struggling to deal with the absence of Ricky Rubio. The Cavs have to be hoping that newly acquired veteran Rajon Rondo can help fill that void, but that seems unlikely. It was a 1-3 week for Cleveland, and they have to hope they can stop the bleeding and not slip further down the standings. The bright spot was the return of Darius Garland, who should be in the running for the most improved player.

9. Philadelphia 76ers (+3)

Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia 76ers are on a five-game winning streak and are playing their best basketball of the season. Joel Embiid is getting better and better every week and carrying this team when guys miss time. In addition, Seth Curry has been one of the NBA’s most improved players over the last couple of seasons and should get more credit for how he helps this team.

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8. Miami Heat (+0)

Miami is coming off of a 2-2 week and is now going to have Jimmy Butler sidelined again because of an ankle injury. In the win over Portland on Wednesday, the Heat were dealing with the loss of Butler, and Kyle Lowry was also ejected. This team has been dealing with injuries all year and will have to find a way to keep winning in spite of everything.

7. Milwaukee Bucks (-1)

After getting their winning streak up to six games, Milwaukee suffered a brutal loss to Detroit, then lost Toronto. Giannis Antetokounmpo was out some this week, but it let Jrue Holiday shine. Holiday has been one of the Bucks’ most consistent performers this year, and he keeps on playing well.

 6. Memphis Grizzlies (+1)

The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the most impressive teams every week and are finally getting their recognition. Memphis is still behind the top three teams in the Western Conference, but they are the best of the rest. Ja Morant is performing like one of the best point guards in the league and should get some All-NBA love as well.

5. Brooklyn Nets (-1)

The big news for the Nets was getting point guard Kyrie Irving back. Irving is going to play in the team’s road games due to the Vaccine mandate in New York City. With Irving, the Nets should be considered the favorites to win the NBA championship. This team has a prolific offense when Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden all play together.

4. Phoenix Suns (-1)

Phoenix takes a slight drop this week despite going 2-1. The Suns lost to the Celtics at the beginning of the week, and then the team dropped two tough games to Charlotte and New Orleans. However, an unexpected player that stepped up this week was Jalen Smith. Phoenix was missing Deandre Ayton, and JaVale McGee and Smith played great in their absence.

3. Utah Jazz (-1)

Utah had a 3-1 week, with their only loss coming to Golden State. The wins for the Jazz came against Minnesota, New Orleans, and Denver. Bojan Bogdanovic was great for the Jazz all week and even turned in a career-high 13 rebounds in the Wednesday night victory over Denver. Rudy Gobert has missed time, but this still continues to be one of the best teams in the NBA.

2. Chicago Bulls (+3)

The highlights for the Bulls had to be the two buzzer-beaters that DeMar DeRozan hit. Chicago owns the longest winning streak in the NBA at eight games and appears to be a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference. Zach LaVine continues to be a scoring machine for this team, and they are playing their best basketball of the season.

1. Golden State Warriors (+0)

It appeared that Chicago was going to make a serious run for the top spot, but the Warriors held them off for this week. The reason for that is that Golden State got some high-quality wins under their belt this week. Despite losing to Dallas on Wednesday, the Warriors got wins over Utah and Miami. What is surprising is that the Warriors had another good week despite Stephen Curry not playing his best. It is also being reported that Klay Thompson could be making his return on Sunday against Cleveland. The rich just get richer.

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