There were two big matchups this week and it showed the NBA might have a new contender. It also showed that the preseason favorite is still going to be a force. The Memphis Grizzlies matched up with the Golden State Warriors and were able to take them down. There is no team in the NBA hotter than Memphis and they looked like a true contender. There is a long way to go, but the Grizzlies appear legit. In the other big matchup, the Brooklyn Nets blew out the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had been hot going into the game, but will have to work back from such a lopsided loss.
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30. Orlando Magic (+0)
Orlando still sports the longest current losing streak in the NBA. It reached 10 games this week with two losses to the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons. The offense is still struggling and is among the worst in the NBA. One bit of good news is that Terrence Ross is shooting the ball and playing well. Ross is the top candidate on the Magic to be traded and it helps Orlando if he continues to play well.
29. Detroit Pistons (+0)
It was not a start to the week for Detroit, as they lost another game by 30 points. However, they managed to bounce back and picked up two impressive wins over Orlando and the Utah Jazz. The Pistons then managed to lose to the Bulls in blowout fashion so that will prevent them from moving up. Cade Cunningham was impressive in Detroit’s win over Utah and he continues to look like the guy who was selected number one overall.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (-3)
The Thunder have the honor of holding the second-longest losing streak in the NBA. The losing streak is at five games and it was a tough week for the Thunder. Oklahoma City lost to the Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Denver Nuggets this week. It was tough to find any bright spots for the Thunder, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was not effective. Shockingly, this team is only three games back of a play-in spot, but expect that gap to widen soon.
27. Houston Rockets (+1)
Houston remains at the bottom of the Western Conference after another tough week. The Rockets lost to Minnesota, the Dallas Mavericks, and Philadelphia 76ers this week and the lone win came against San Antonio on Wednesday. Christian Wood continues to play well ahead of the trade deadline. A player that stepped up this week was rookie Josh Christopher, who shot the three-ball well.
26. New Orleans Pelicans (+0)
New Orleans does get credit for beating Golden State, despite the Warriors being short-handed. Brandon Ingram had a buzzer-beating shot against Minnesota and had a close loss to the Toronto Raptors. He has been talked about nearly every week on the power rankings, but Ingram has been very good for New Orleans. This team would be far worse without him and he deserves plenty of recognition.
25. Indiana Pacers (+2)
Indiana did put an end to their long losing streak with a win over Utah this week. What is crazy about that win was that Indiana was missing Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon. This team did lose twice to the Boston Celtics however, and trade rumors are still dominating the headlines with Indiana. It was nice to see Pacers legend Lance Stephenson make plays in his return.
24. San Antonio Spurs (-1)
After being one of the hottest teams in the NBA in the month of December, San Antonio has cooled off considerably. Now to be fair, the Spurs were missing some key guys in the health and safety protocols during what turned out to be a winless week. Dejounte Murray continues to make a case for the All-Star game with his stellar play. The Spurs are a team to watch that could make a trade at the deadline to bolster their team.
23. Atlanta Hawks (-2)
The NBA’s most disappointing team just can’t seem to get it going. It was another tough week filled with losses for Atlanta, but this team is now being dominated by trade rumors. Cam Reddish was traded to the New York Knicks in an interesting trade for Kevin Knox and a protected 2022 first-round pick. John Collins appears to be frustrated with his role on the team and is being mentioned as a possible trade chip for Ben Simmons. The defense nor the effort are there right now and it is fair to wonder whether the Hawks will miss the playoffs entirely.
22. Sacramento Kings (+0)
While the Kings did get a solid win over the Lakers on Wednesday night, it was their only win of the week. Sacramento lost to Portland, Cleveland, and Denver this week and continues to struggle right now. This is another team that has a lot of rumors surrounding them, with both De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton being rumored to be available.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (+3)
The big news coming out of Portland is that Damian Lillard is going to have abdominal surgery and is out indefinitely. The good news is that the team did pick up two wins and remains in the hunt for a playoff spot. While this team is playing a little bit better, the rest of the season outlook is not good if Lillard is not back soon. This team just does not have the depth to withstand his long-term absence.
20. Los Angeles Clippers (-1)
The Clippers, still without Paul George, batted .500 for the week in four games. After losing games to the Phoenix Suns and Memphis, Los Angeles did get wins over Atlanta and Denver. Amir Coffey was the guy that stepped up in both of those wins, as did Marcus Morris. This team remains firmly in the mix, despite not having two-star players.
19. Boston Celtics (-1)
It feels wrong to drop Boston a spot after the week they had. The Celtics have appeared to hit a stride after an embarrassing loss to the Knicks. They won the rematch with New York and then picked up two wins over the Pacers. The star duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum was impressive this week and was a big reason the Celtics bounced back. Robert Williams continues to be an all-around threat and has been a great piece for Boston.
18. New York Knicks (+2)
It has been a 3-1 week for the Knicks, splitting a pair of games with Boston and then beating San Antonio and Dallas. There were two guys that stood out for the Knicks and neither of them are named Julius Randle. RJ Barrett and Evan Fournier were fantastic for the Knicks and contributed a lot on offense. It will be interesting to see how the recently acquired Reddish will make an impact, coming over from Atlanta.
17. Los Angeles Lakers (-4)
The Lakers had been looking hot during a four-game winning streak, but then dropped an ugly game to Sacramento. The Lakers also lost to the Grizzlies, who they can’t seem to figure out. Malik Monk continues to be one of the team’s best scorers and is providing much-needed offensive stability. What is clear is that Anthony Davis needs to return quickly. The defense is falling apart and has been dreadful without him.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (+1)
The Timberwolves had a solid start to the week with wins over Oklahoma City and Houston. One of their losses came at the hands of New Orleans and a buzzer-beating shot by Brandon Ingram. This team is still marching towards a spot in the play-in tournament due to the play of their big three. D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Edwards have been fantastic for the team this season. Minnesota is another team that remains in the running to trade for Simmons. That will be something to watch as the trade deadline approaches.
15. Washington Wizards (+1)
It was a 2-1 week for the Wizards and that’s impressive when you consider Bradley Beal has been in health and safety protocols. Kyle Kuzma has caught fire and is carrying this team offensively in Beal’s absence. Some more good news for the Wizards is that Thomas Bryant returned from his injury and played 12 minutes on Wednesday.
14 Denver Nuggets (+0)
While the Nuggets did have an embarrassing blown lead against the Clippers that lead to a loss, Denver did pick up wins over Sacramento and Oklahoma City. While Denver remains firmly in the mix for a top-six spot in the Western Conference, Nikola Jokic is not getting enough help right now. If this team wants any shot to make noise in the postseason, some other guys are going to have to step up for this team.
13. Dallas Mavericks (-2)
Dallas drops two spots this week and that mostly comes from other teams just getting hot and passing them. The Mavericks had a nice win over the Bulls but did suffer a bad loss to the Knicks. Luka Doncic continues to play well, even though his shooting numbers were not impressive this week. It has been impressive to see this team bounce back after a tough start to the season.
12. Toronto Raptors (+3)
The Toronto Raptors just might be the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. This team has gone 7-3 in their past 10 games and are now firmly in the mix for a playoff spot and they have room to climb. Fred VanVleet has been one of the better players in the NBA over the course of the month and he deserves consideration for an All-Star spot. The other player that is heating up is OG Anunoby. This team has experience and looks like a legit threat for these upcoming playoffs.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (-1)
Cleveland had a very nice week, going 3-1, with their only loss being to the Warriors in Klay Thompson‘s return. Darius Garland continued his fantastic season, with his first career triple-double on Wednesday night. Evan Mobley remains the frontrunner for the rookie of the year award and this team’s defense remains one of the NBA’s best.
10. Charlotte Hornets (+2)
The Hornets had an undefeated week and are finally playing better on the defensive end of the floor. Charlotte had legit wins over some good teams this week, beating the Milwaukee Bucks twice, then Philadelphia, who was red hot entering that game. Terry Rozier is scoring the ball better and Gordon Hayward is heating up as well.
9. Philadelphia 76ers (+0)
The 76ers did see their winning steak come to an end at the hands of the Hornets, but they are still one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Joel Embiid has scored more than 30 points in eight games and is playing like one of the best players in the NBA. Rumors have started to pick back up concerning Simmons and he could be moved with the trade deadline approaching.
8. Utah Jazz (-5)
This is the lowest that the Jazz have been in quite some time. That is largely due to the tough week that they had. Utah lost to Toronto, Indiana, Detroit, and Cleveland. Utah is missing Rudy Gobert defensively and him missing all four games is the biggest reason that they lost those games. This is still an excellent game, but they have hit a rough patch here.
7. Milwaukee Bucks (+0)
The Bucks did get a nice win over the Nets but did suffer two losses to Charlotte. This team was missing Jrue Holiday and that meant that Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo had to carry a larger workload. Both of those players delivered and stepped up in a huge way. This team is still as good as any in the Eastern Conference, they just need to get healthy.
6. Miami Heat (+2)
The Heat were missing both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but managed to win both of their games this week. Miami got wins over Phoenix and Atlanta and did so in impressive fashion. Tyler Herro continues his bounce-back season and should be the leading candidate for sixth man of the year. Gabe Vincent helped pick up the scoring with both Butler and Adebayo out. This team is still very much an Eastern Conference title contender.
5. Brooklyn Nets (+0)
Brooklyn was having a tough week, but they reminded everyone of why they were the title favorites at the beginning of the season when they blew out the Bulls on Wednesday night. It is amazing to see the difference that Kyrie Irving makes on this team. If he is able to play in more games, this team should win the championship. It is that simple.
4. Chicago Bulls (-2)
Chicago did manage to get two wins this week over the Wizards and Pistons but lost to Dallas before then getting annihilated by the Nets Wednesday. The defense has been solid all year but collapsed this week. This team is still in the race in the Eastern Conference, but this week showed that they still have a lot to prove. The good news is that the offense did not appear to slow down and Zach LaVine kept up his stellar play.
3. Golden State Warriors (-2)
The Warriors have finally been knocked from their top spot in the power rankings. Despite Thompson’s triumphant return against Cleveland on Sunday, this team went 1-2. Golden State never really looked like a dominant team this week, especially in their loss to Memphis. This team should still remain the favorite in the Western Conference as long as they are healthy and this week should not bring upon any panic.
2. Phoenix Suns (+2)
The Suns are now back as the top seed in the Western Conference at 31-9. Phoenix did suffer a tough loss to the Heat but had wins over the Raptors and Clippers. One concern for the Suns though is that Devin Booker has not snapped out of his offensive slump he has been in. The Suns have been fine, but Booker is going to need to step it up though to keep things rolling.
1. Memphis Grizzlies (+5)
Who would have thought that the Grizzlies would ever be in the top spot of the power rankings this year? Ja Morant is playing at another level right now and this team just won’t stop winning. The Grizzlies have won 10 in a row and show no signs of slowing down. The four wins this week came against the Warriors, Lakers, Pistons, and Clippers. This team is fun to watch every night and is the best story of the season. Memphis is legit and the rest of the NBA is wide awake to that fact now.
Follow Jackson Caudell on Twitter @jacksoncaudell
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