NBA Power Rankings: Eastern Conference heating up, as the Top 5 faces significant change

Previous Power Rankings:  PreseasonWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10Week 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15, Week 16

  1. Phoenix Suns

Previous Ranking: 1 (Same)

Record: 40-16

Aside from an odd blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs last night, the Suns took care of business this past week, and remain the hottest team in basketball. It’s really been a team effort for the Suns, as they didn’t have a single player score 30 points in any of their four games this week. With the Utah Jazz facing some injuries, Phoenix could look to make a run at the #1 seed this coming week.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Previous Ranking: 5 (Up 3)

Record: 39-17

Philly had a perfect week, going 3-0 against some of the top teams in the league. While each team was missing one or more of their star players, Philadelphia still came out and picked up some tough victories to keep them atop the Eastern Conference for the time being. Joel Embiid is back to his dominant ways, as he dropped 35+ points in each game, and continues to make his MVP case. The 76ers have a tough week coming up, and will need Embiid to remain hot if they want to hold onto the #1 seed. 

  1. Utah Jazz

Previous Ranking: 2 (Down 1)

Record: 42-15

The Jazz had a tough week, but the good news is that it could have been worse. The silver lining is they avoided a major injury scare with Donovan Mitchell, who was forced out of their contest against the Indiana Pacers. Mitchell still will miss some time with an ankle injury, but it appears he will be back in due time. The Jazz now have to try to find a way to hold onto the #1 seed out West, as last night’s loss against the Los Angeles Lakers showed that won’t be an easy task.

  1. Brooklyn Nets

Previous Ranking: 3 (Down 1)

Record: 38-18

Brooklyn went 2-1 on the week, as they continue to try to get fully healthy before playoff time. Their depth took a hit when LaMarcus Aldridge abruptly retired due to lingering health concerns, but if the Nets can get their star trio back together soon, it shouldn’t matter too much. Had Brooklyn had their full ensemble available for their game against Philadelphia, there’s a good chance they would have won, which goes to show how dangerous this team can be. 

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Previous Ranking: 6 (Up 1)

Record: 39-19

The Clippers had a seven game win streak snapped by the 76ers, and they probably would have pulled out a victory had Kawhi Leonard been active. Paul George appears to have finally bounced back from a lingering toe injury, as he dropped 30+ points in each of the three games he played this week. Of course, he will need to keep up this play in the playoffs, or else it will quickly be forgotten about. 

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

Previous Ranking: 7 (Up 1)

Record: 35-21

The Bucks finally got Giannis Antetokounmpo back from injury, only to lose to the Memphis Grizzlies by 13 last night. It certainly wasn’t Giannis’ fault, as he was two assists away from a triple double, but it’s concerning to see a fully healthy Bucks squad get beaten quite handily by Memphis. The Bucks did enough while Giannis was out, winning each of their three contests beforehand, to give them some leeway, but they need to keep winning, as the Eastern Conference appears to be heating up.

  1. Denver Nuggets

Previous Ranking: 4 (Down 3)

Record: 36-20

The Nuggets finally seemed to be finding their way, only to receive devastating news that Jamal Murray suffered a torn ACL in their loss against the Golden State Warriors, and would be out for the rest of the season. The Nuggets promptly followed up this news with two blowout victories over the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, but they will need somebody to step up to be a second option after Nikola Jokic if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. 

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

Previous Ranking: 9 (Up 1)

Record: 32-23

Portland suffered two tough losses to the Heat and the Boston Celtics, before pulling out a one point victory over the Spurs to avoid catastrophe this week. The Trail Blazers seem to be in a bit of a funk right now, as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have struggled with their efficiency lately. McCollum had a solid outing against the Spurs, dropping 29 points and six assists, and will be looking to carry it over into the upcoming week.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Previous Ranking: 9 (Down 1)

Record: 30-25

Dallas labored through a tough week, going 1-3 and picking up their only victory over the Grizzlies. They admittedly had a tough schedule, but it wasn’t very encouraging to see them falter against playoff bound teams in the 76ers and New York Knicks. While Luka Doncic and Kristaps put up some solid numbers, their supporting cast struggled for much of the week. They’ll need to figure things out soon if they want to avoid the play in tournament, as the end of the regular season continues to creep up.

  1. Boston Celtics

Previous Ranking: 14 (Up 4)

Record: 31-26

The Celtics are finally making the run that had been expected of them all season, and have moved all the way up to the #4 seed in the East as a result. They went a perfect 4-0 on the week against some tough Western Conference opponents, and seem to finally be getting healthy. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum traded 40 point outings against the Lakers and Warriors, and if the young star duo can keep up their recent hot streak, the rest of the league may be in trouble. 

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Previous Ranking: 10 (Down 1)

Record: 35-22

The Lakers continue to hang on in the West, despite going another week without LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the lineup. It sounds like Davis is nearing a return, which will be a welcome sight with Portland and Dallas waiting to pounce on a vulnerable Lakers unit. Until then, the Lakers will need to keep doing damage control, and hope that the returns of LeBron and Davis will propel them back up the standings. 

  1. Atlanta Hawks

Previous Ranking: 11 (Down 1)

Record: 30-26

The Hawks went 2-1 on the week, but watched the Celtics snag the #4 seed away from them for now. With Trae Young out for the first two games, Bogdan Bogdanovic picked up the slack, and led the Hawks to a pair of victories. With John Collins set for a return this week, the Hawks will look to keep pace with Boston, and try to reclaim the #4 seed from them. 

  1. New York Knicks

Previous Ranking: 16 (Up 3)

Record: 30-27

The Knicks went a perfect 4-0 on the week, and find themselves in the midst of a five game win streak as a result. Julius Randle appears to be making a late surge for Most Improved Player, as he was absolutely dominant this week. He capped things off with a 44p/10r/7a statline to lead the Knicks to victory over the Mavericks. The Knicks will need to keep their winning ways up, as they remain locked in a three-way battle with the Hawks and Celtics for playoff seeding at this point. 

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Previous Ranking: 15 (Up 1)

Record: 29-26

Memphis played five games this past week, and managed to go 3-2 on the week, despite facing some tough opponents. They picked up two wins over the Bulls and a surprising victory over the Bucks as well. Jonas Valunciunas had the game of the week for Memphis in their loss to the Pacers, as he posted an insane 34 point, 22 rebound line. The depth scoring has been Memphis’ defining trait this season, and they’ll need to keep it up to remain in line to earn a spot in the play in tournament. 

  1. Miami Heat

Previous Ranking: 28-28

Record: 13 (Down 2)

Miami just can’t find any consistency this season, as they trade off big win streaks with mind boggling losses. They went 1-3 on the week, which included blowout losses against the Suns and Nuggets, and a tough loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Miami has the talent to make a turnaround and go on a run like they did last season, but it seems like they are headed for a spot in the play in tournament at this rate. 

  1. Golden State Warriors

Previous Ranking: 19 (Up 3)

Record: 28-29

Steph Curry seems intent on carrying the Warriors to a playoff berth, as he is in the midst of one of the hottest stretches of his career. He has dropped 30+ points in his last ten games, and has single-handedly carried Golden State to victories as a result. He dropped 40+ in three games this week, including a 50 point game against the Nuggets to open the week. Golden State could look to move up the standings if Curry’s insane play continues. 

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Previous Ranking: 12 (Down 5)

Record: 27-28

The injuries appear to have finally caught up to Charlotte, as they plummeted all the way down to the the #8 seed in the East. They lost all four of their games this week, and can’t find anyone to step up and take charge of the team. The backcourt duo of Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham has been underwhelming to say the least, and has been a massive letdown for Charlotte. They still could move back up the standings, but time is running out for Charlotte.

  1. Indiana Pacers

Previous Ranking: 18 (Same)

Record: 26-29

The Pacers continue to hang around in the East, but just can’t make up any ground on the teams ahead of them. They went 2-2 on the week, and just can’t seem to pull off a run to get themselves back up in the standings. On the brightside, their guard duo of Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon appear to have found some chemistry together, as LeVert dropped 20+ in each game this week, and Brogdon did the same in three out of their four games. 

  1. San Antonio Spurs

Previous Ranking: 17 (Down 2)

Record: 27-28

The Spurs stopped the bleeding for the time being, but still find themselves barely hanging onto a play in spot. They picked up a huge win over Phoenix last night, as they had just come off of two tough losses against the Raptors and Trail Blazers. There is still some distance between them and the #11 seed New Orleans Pelicans, but the Spurs need to figure things out if they want to hold onto their play in place.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

Previous Ranking: 20 (Same)

Record: 25-31

The Pelicans missed an opportunity to make up some ground on the Spurs this week, as they dropped two games after winning their first two of the week, giving San Antonio some breathing room ahead of them. Brandon Ingram had a solid all around week, while Zion Williamson struggled notably in their two recent losses. New Orleans will need their star duo to be firing on all cylinders if they want to find their way into the play in tournament. 

  1. Toronto Raptors

Previous Ranking: 23 (Up 2)

Record: 23-34

The Raptors went 2-2 on the week, and find themselves right in the mix for the last play-in spot with the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls. They’ve really struggled with their health recently, as it seems like they are missing more players with each coming game. However, it’s opened some doors for reserve players, as Paul Watson led the way in their win over Orlando, dropping 30 points. If they can get everyone back, Toronto could sneak into the play in tournament. 

  1. Washington Wizards

Previous Ranking: 24 (Up 2)

Record: 23-33

The Wizards surprisingly went a perfect 4-0 on the week, and find themselves back in contention for a play in spot. Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook are hitting their strides at the perfect time, as Beal dropped 30+ points in each game, while Westbrook dropped three triple doubles this week. The Wizards will look to keep up the momentum this week against a relatively easy slate of opponents. 

  1. Chicago Bulls

Previous Ranking: 22 (Down 1)

Record: 23-33

Despite making big moves at the trade deadline, the Bulls somehow made themselves worse. They labored through yet another miserable week, going 1-4 against a relatively easy set of opponents. Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic have been solid if unspectacular, but have gotten basically no help from their supporting cast. Their grip of the final play in spot appears to be slipping, and they will need to quickly turn things around if they want to hang onto it.

  1. Sacramento Kings

Previous Ranking: 21 (Down 3) 

Record: 22-34

The Kings went 0-3 on the week, and unless a miracle happens, their shot at making the play in tournament is all but gone. They wasted some huge performances by De’Aaron Fox, including a 43 point effort against the Pelicans. Richaun Holmes also appears set to miss some time, only making matters worse for the lowly Kings.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Previous Ranking: 25 (Same)

Record: 20-36

The Cavs went 1-3 on the week, as they remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Surprisingly enough, their lone win came without Colin Sexton in the lineup, as Taureen Prince dropped 25 points to lead Cleveland to a victory over the slumping Hornets. The Cavs will look to continue to develop their young core as the season comes to a close. 

  1. Detroit Pistons

Previous Ranking: 27 (Up 1)

Record: 17-40

The Pistons went 1-3 on the week, with their only victory coming over the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Jerami Grant missing some time, that has opened up more looks for the rest of the team, and Josh Jackson has certainly capitalized. He led the way with 29 points against the Thunder, while also chipping in 26 in their first loss against the Clippers. The Pistons should continue to look to get some of their younger players looks throughout the rest of the season. 

  1. Orlando Magic

Previous Ranking: 28 (Up 1)

Record: 18-38

The Magic went 1-3 on the week, picking up a win over the Bulls, while losing all their other games by double digit figures. The Magic don’t really have any consistent source of offense, as they only had three players reach 20 points throughout the week. The only positive is that they get to take a long look at what they have on the roster, as they are set to embark on a long rebuild over the next couple of years. 

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Previous Ranking: 26 (Down 2)

Record: 20-36

The Thunder’s rapid descent down the standings continue, as they are in the middle of a nine game losing streak with no end in sight. They were absolutely destroyed by the Warriors, and their only somewhat close game was against the Pistons. The one bright spot of the week was Lu Dort’s 42 point game against the Jazz, as he has stepped up to take control of the offense in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s absence.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves 

Previous Ranking: 29 (Same)

Record: 15-42

Minnesota went 2-2 on the week, picking up wins over the Bulls and Heat. It’s notable that Karl-Anthony Towns was absent during both the teams losses, as the Timberwolves are just a completely different team without him on the floor. Towns and Anthony Edwards give Minnesota a solid core to build around for the future as they carry the Timberwolves through the rest of the season.

  1. Houston Rockets

Previous Ranking: 30 (Same)

Record: 14-42

The Rockets lost all three of their games this week, and are now in the middle of a five game losing streak. The trio of John Wall, Christian Wood, and Kevin Porter Jr. will keep the team in most games, but they lack any sort of defensive ability to stop opposing teams. They will look to snap their losing streak this upcoming week, but I certainly wouldn’t get my hopes up for that to happen. 

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