The NBA had their biggest game of the year up to this point on Tuesday night when the Phoenix Suns took on the Golden State Warriors. The Suns came out on top and now have to be considered the best team in the Western Conference and maybe the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks have found their groove winning eight of the last nine and the Milwaukee Bucks have put together a nice winning streak as well. The season is a quarter of the way over, but there is still a lot that needs to be figured out around the NBA.
30. Detroit Pistons (-3)
For the first time this season, the Detroit Pistons claim the 30th spot in the power rankings. This team is tied for the longest losing streak in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder and that is never a spot you want to be in. Losses to the Clippers, Blazers, and Lakers have made it a tough road trip for the Pistons. This team is terrible on offense right now and has no consistent performers aside from Jerami Grant and Cade Cunningham.
29. Orlando Magic (-1)
The Magic currently sport the worst point differential in the NBA. It has been tough going for the Magic. Jalen Suggs is nursing a broken right thumb and is going to miss time. The only really good news for Orlando this week was that they ended their seven-game losing streak by beating a short-handed Nuggets. It was also a solid week for Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (-4)
The Thunder are currently on a seven-game losing streak and it could not get worse than losing to the Houston Rockets. Much like Detroit, this team is struggling to score points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been playing well, but that is to be expected. After showing some fight early in the season, this team has started to backslide a little bit.
27. Houston Rockets (+3)
Don’t look now, but the Houston Rockets have now won four games in a row and are playing competent basketball. They even beat the Thunder without Kevin Porter Jr and Christian Wood playing in the second half. After having a slow start to the season, Wood has started to play better and is improving his trade stock. Jalen Green has had to miss some time, but should not be out much longer. This team looked bleak a week ago, but they have finally started to show some life.
26. New Orleans Pelicans (+3)
New Orleans picked up a pair of impressive wins by upsetting the Jazz and the Clippers this past week. The Pelican’s top performer of the week has to be Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas had a career-high 39 point game in the victory over the Clippers. Point guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker was a good contributor and is showing why New Orleans has high hopes for him in the future.
25. San Antonio Spurs (+1)
There was not much room for the Spurs to move up due to only playing in two games this week, but they made the most of their opportunities. San Antonio beat the Wizards and the Celtics to end their six-game losing streak. One player that has flown under the radar in the NBA this season has to be Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl has been one of the best rim protectors and defensive players that does not get talked about enough. This team plays better than their record suggests, but they still have a ways to go to move out of the bottom half of the league.
24. Toronto Raptors (-2)
The Raptors have had a tough week. Toronto dropped three games against the Pacers, Celtics, and the Grizzlies and continues to sink further away from the playoff race. After playing well when returning from injury, Pascal Siakam has been struggling to find his tough offensively. That has left Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes to pick up the slack. While those two have played well, the rest of the team hasn’t.
23. Sacramento Kings (+2)
After firing their head coach, it was a mixed bag of results for the Kings. The Kings got a big win in triple overtime against the Lakers, but then turned around and lost to the Lakers in a rematch. The Kings beat the Clippers, although they were resting Paul George. Sacramento also lost to the Grizzlies and that capped the uneven week for them. This team needs to get Harrison Barnes and Maurice Harkless back healthy to make a move up the standings.
22. Indiana Pacers (+1)
Another week, another round of heartbreaking losses for the Indiana Pacers. Indiana had the Hawks on the ropes on Wednesday night but missed a point-blank layup at the end of the game after a turnover by Atlanta. The only win of the past week came against a struggling Raptors team. The losses were to Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Minnesota. Point guard Malcolm Brogdon continues to have a good season and would be getting more if he were on a better team.
21. Memphis Grizzlies (+0)
Memphis suffered a serious scare when Ja Morant went down in a blowout loss to the Hawks last week. However, it seems as if Morant is only going to miss a few weeks before he can return. Memphis was able to pick up two wins against the Pacers and Kings without Morant, so that could give them hope for the near future. This team just has to stay in the hunt until their superstar gets back from injury.
20. Denver Nuggets (-7)
Things are not going well for the Denver Nuggets. Denver got heartbreaking news when it was reported that Michael Porter Jr and PJ Dozier are going to miss the rest of the season. This team was already missing Jamal Murray and it is going to be tough to bounce back from these injuries. Still, it is going to be tough to totally count out this team with a healthy Nikola Jokic.
19. Portland Trail Blazers (-7)
The Blazers are dealing with losses both on and off the court. Portland is going to be missing point guard Damian Lillard for at least 10 days with a lower abdominal injury. This is coming off of a week where the team lost to Golden State and Utah. This team is dealing with some other injuries as well, with Norman Powell and Nassir Little missing time. This is another team that is going to need to stay afloat while their star player is missing time.
18. Los Angeles Clippers (-9)
The team making the biggest tumble this week is the Los Angeles Clippers. This might be a bit harsh, considering they did miss Paul George for a bit of time. However, this was a really tough week for the Clippers. Los Angeles went 1-3 and had losses to the Kings and the Pelicans, two teams they should be able to beat with ease. This team is going to have to have other players step up if they want to stay in the playoff hunt.
17. Los Angeles Lakers (+1)
The Lakers are still playing mediocre basketball over a quarter of the way into the season. LeBron James finally came back from injury and then had to go into the health and safety protocols and will miss some time. Los Angeles split a pair of games with the Kings. Maybe the biggest disappointment recently has been Anthony Davis. Davis is not playing like a superstar and the Lakers are going to need him in James’s absence.
16. Philadelphia 76ers (-5)
Philadelphia is another team that had a tough week, but they did get Joel Embiid back. Embiid looked like the MVP candidate he was last season in a double-overtime loss to Minnesota when he dropped 42 points and 14 rebounds. The only win for the 76ers came against Orlando and they had losses to the Timberwolves and the Celtics. One guy that should be getting more love is Seth Curry. Curry is shooting lights out and playing exceptionally for Philadelphia this season.
15. New York Knicks (+2)
The Knicks got a big win on the road against Atlanta, which had to feel good, considering how they played against them in the playoffs last season. The piece of news that is not good for the Knicks is that it appears it will be a short stay for Kemba Walker in the Big Apple. Head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Walker is not going to be in the rotation and then rumors of the team trying to trade him started to surface. Alec Burks has stepped in nicely for Walker, but it is a big question mark if Burks can do this for the rest of the season.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves (+6)
One of the most underrated teams in the NBA this season has been the Timberwolves. This team is squarely in the playoff hunt and playing well. This team did have a pair of losses to the Hornets and the Wizards but also had wins over the 76ers and Pacers. This team is being carried by their big three on offense, D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Edwards and each are improving. This is a fun team to watch and it has been awhile since that could be said about the Timberwolves.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers (+6)
After writing them off in last weeks rankings, Cleveland proceeded to have a 3-0 week. Rookie Evan Mobley has returned and brought a great defensive presence. The offense is still struggling to find form, but this team has been elite defensively. The Cavs scored wins over the Heat and Mavericks this week, both of them on the road. A guy that is getting overlooked is Jarrett Allen Allen has been a beast in the paint and a key to this team’s success.
12. Dallas Mavericks (-4)
Aside from a blowout win over the Pelicans, there was not a lot to get excited about if you are a Mavericks fan. Losses to the Wizards and the Cavs were not good, but Luka Doncic is still playing at an elite level. This is a team that is still trying to find its identity and that might take some time.
11. Boston Celtics (+4)
Boston is struggling to score the ball, but they were still able to come away with a pair of nice wins this week. The Celtics beat the 76ers and Raptors this week but also lost to the Spurs, which prevented them from going much higher. This team is finally healthy and playing elite defense, which was supposed to be Boston’s strength heading into the season. After a poor beginning to the season, the Celtics might have found their rhythm.
10. Charlotte Hornets (+0)
As exciting as it might be to watch this team on a nightly basis, the Hornets are not going to be able to make a run in the postseason if the defense does not improve. Charlotte has the NBA’s worst defense and it isn’t even close. Charlotte beat Minnesota and had a good game against the Bucks, but then lost three straight games. LaMelo Ball continues to be sensation, but this team is going to have to improve defensively if they are to be taken seriously.
9. Atlanta Hawks (+5)
Atlanta continues to be one of the hottest teams in the NBA, despite a loss to the Knicks last Saturday. Trae Young has been brilliant as of late and should be getting a little MVP love as well. Clint Capela is back to being a beast in the middle of the defense and that is a huge reason the Hawks are back to winning. The main concern for the Hawks should be injuries. De’Andre Hunter is still hurt, as is Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish. This is still a talented team that is starting to figure it out.
8. Miami Heat (-4)
Miami is a team that started out hot but has cooled off since and some of that could be blamed on injuries. Bam Adebayo is going to miss a month with a thumb injury and Jimmy Butler is going to miss some time too. This team is just not deep enough to withstand a lot of injuries and are going to need both players back. Tyler Herro has been banged up too. It was not so much about the wins and losses for the Heat this week as it was about the health of their biggest stars.
7. Washington Wizards (+0)
The Wizards are a team that did not see any movement this week. They had some good wins over the Thunder, Mavericks, and Timeberwolves and that was with Bradley Beal playing subpar. This team just keeps finding ways to win and finds themselves currently in the second spot in the Eastern Conference. This is a strong team that is getting great contributions from a lot of players.
6. Chicago Bulls (-1)
The Bulls slide down a spot this week, but its not because they played bad. Chicago got two good wins over the Magic and the Hornets, but did suffer a close loss to the Heat. The Bulls continue to be one of the top teams in the NBA on offense and better than expected on defense. It was great to see the return of Nikola Vucevic to the lineup this week too.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (+11)
This week’s biggest jump comes courtesy of the defending champs. Milwaukee has started to look like an elite team once again and that is because of the three best players on the team. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday are starting to play on a high level and that is bad news for the rest of the league. The only concern for Milwaukee right now has to be the health of center Brook Lopez, who might be out for an extended period of time.
4. Utah Jazz (+2)
Utah had one of the more confusing losses of the season, at home to New Orleans, but was able to bounce back from that loss nicely. The Jazz have had one of the top offenses in the NBA and Donovan Mitchell has been the leader on that end of the floor. Utah should remain one of the top teams in the Western Conference all season long.
3. Brooklyn Nets (+0)
Through no fault of their, the Brooklyn Nets are flying a bit under the radar. Because of the brilliance of both Phoenix and Golden State, nobody is noticing how good the Nets have been. The Nets only had two games this week, losing to Phoenix and beating the Knicks. Kevin Durant continues to play like he is going to win his second MVP and James Harden continues to show more consistency. This is still very much a dangerous team.
2. Golden State Warriors (-1)
The Warriors have finally been knocked off of their top perch. It is not really because the Warriors played bad, but they did lose the crucial matchup against the Suns. Golden State still has the best point differential in the NBA and they are having some guys other than Stephen Curry play well. Curry did not have a good game against the Suns, but Jordan Poole and Otto Porter Jr have continued to emerge as options.
1. Phoenix Suns (+1)
Phoenix continues their historical winning streak and got it to 17 games by beating Golden State. The Suns are going to have a rematch with the Warriors, but for now, this is the top team in the NBA. Deandre Ayton had one of his best games of the season against Golden State and everyone else seems to be playing at a high level. Mikal Bridges is making his case for defensive player of the year as well. This is just a very good all around basketball team who is proving that last season was no fluke.
Follow Jackson Caudell on Twitter @jacksoncaudell
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