NBA power rankings: fifth edition


Chris Warner

In our fifth installment, the Clippers move their way into the top 5, while the Celtics and the Hornets are in a relative free fall. Our biggest movers this week are the Utah Jazz (+7) and the Pistons (+5) — and the Brooklyn Nets have stepped out of the bottom 3 for the first time this season. The Celtics (-7) and Hornets (-8), on the other hand, are trending in the wrong direction quickly.

Rank Team Record Comments

1 (-)



The Warriors are on a six-game winning streak, which as we know is nothing compared to what they have done already this season. This is still the No. 1 team in the league and flying under the radar is how unhealthy this team has actually been. During their 35-2 stretch Barbosa, Curry, Thompson, Ezeli and Livingston have all missed games. Curry’s shin injury is something to keep an eye on as the season goes forward. (CV)

2 (-)



The Spurs are still riding a seven-game win streak. They moved to 22-0 at home this season, and 31 straight overall, after a tough game against a Knicks team on the rise this weekend. Kawhi Leonard continues to be the star player with Duncan in decline and became Carmelo Anthony’s kryptonite, holding him to 5-of-15 shooting from the field. The Spurs have not played in many close games this season so the one point win was an eye opener that they may not be so invincible. (JH)

3 (+1)



Seven straight wins, including a 20-plus point victory over Eastern Conference foe Toronto. They’re also third in the league in points per game and seventh in rebounds. Even Kevin Love has seemed to regain his Minnesota form, averaging a double-double. The only noticeable problem with the Cavs is Timofey Mozgov, who has repeatedly seen his minutes drop to Tristan Thompson. Regardless, this is a deep, star-studded team that has little to worry about over the next few months, barring injury. (CW)

4 (+3)



The Clippers seem to have finally turned the corner. Los Angeles is streaking on a current nine-game winning streak with three of the wins occurring while they were on a back-to-back game. While the win streak has been against teams all under .500, the team has not just been relying on Chris Paul but getting everyone involved. People seem to forget that Blake Griffin is still out with an injury, which should scare opponents knowing they may be much better when he returns. (JH)

5 (-2)



For years we have heard that Westbrook and Durant can’t coexist. For years we must have been wrong. Westbrook and Durant rank two and three respectfully in the league in PER (player efficiency rating) with Westbrook holding a slight edge at 29.74 compared to Durant’s 29.70. Their combined PER of 58.3 is the highest total by two players on the same team in the shot clock era. Not only can they coexist, they can do it efficiently. (LS)

6 (+5)



Chicago snapped a six-game winning streak on Saturday with a lopsided loss to Atlanta on the road. Jimmy Butler has proved himself as a legitimate MVP caliber player and Pau Gasol seems to be playing like it’s 2009. With Derrick Rose finally seeming to be healthy after a couple of missed games, the Bulls look like a real threat in the East. However, the Bulls are still allowing slightly over 100 points game, ranking sixteenth in the league. If Chicago wants to get over the hump, the defense will have to step up. (JH)

7 (-2)



The Atlanta Hawks are solidifying their title as the “Spurs of the East.” It isn’t because of their steady play this season, but instead the manner in which they’ve gone about winning. The Hawks essentially have six players averaging double figures and continue to play with an unselfishness rivaled only by their big brothers of the west. (BC)
8 (-) tor


Without DeMarre Carroll the Raptors cannot be a serious threat to the top tier of the East. Although DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry continue to have all-star caliber seasons, without the versatile Carroll to guard the LeBron James, Jimmy Butlers, and Dwyane Wades of the world, the Raptors have a lot of offense but not enough team talent to truly compete. (BC)

9 (+6)



Dirk continues to wage his battle against father time, finishing with 29 points and seven rebounds against Minnesota, handing the Timberwolves their sixth-straight loss. But the Mavericks are predictable. Two straight wins, maybe three, followed by back-to-back losses has been the story of their season. Fortunately for Dallas, this is the weakest the Western Conference has been in quite some time. They won’t catch the Spurs in the Southwest but a playoff spot is in their reach. (CW)

10 (-4)



I stand by my previous assertions that if the Miami Heat can stay healthy and sure up the role of Goran Dragic, they will pose the biggest threat to Cleveland come playoff time. Miami trails the Hawks by only a half a game for the lead in the Southeast division and will have to get through a grueling road stretch to overtake the Hawks. However, the Heat have the most upside, and boast two proven scorers, Wade and Bosh, with championship pedigree to depend on down the stretch. (BC)

11 (+5)



Different week, same story for Detroit. When you watch them, you can see that the foundation is there, especially with Andre Drummond arguably establishing himself as the top center in the NBA, leading his team in rebounding, steals and blocks. Reggie Jackson has been a big surprise too, but when the rest of your team’s scoring falls on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova, a glass ceiling exists. But for now, the Pistons are a game away from Eastern powers like Chicago and Indiana — a good spot for a budding team. (CW)

 12 (-2)



If the season ended today, Indiana would place sixth in the East. With Paul George having a standout year Indiana could end up securing a playoff spot. One thing Indiana needs to work on is rebounding. Paul George leads the team in rebounding with just 7.6 rebounds a game. George can’t do everything for Indiana and will need some help if the Pacers want to return to their previous years of success. (BG)

13 (+4)



Not much has changed for the Grizzlies. Although they are playing decent basketball, Memphis still clings to the grind-it-out type style we’ve become accustomed to the past few years. Under new head coach David Joerger, the Griz have tried to speed up the pace of their game but with the majority of their offense still running through Gasol and Randolph, NBA viewers can expect little true change. Memphis is barely hanging on to contention in the West. (BC)

14 (-)



After losing a streak of four games Houston changed things up, collecting three wins in a row. James Harden is averaging a stunning 28.3 points per game along with an impressive seven assists per game. Dwight Howard has shot the ball very well in his past 10 games, averaging a 72 percent field goal percentage. Houston is becoming a contender for a playoff spot in the Western Conference if they continue their streak. (BC)

15 (-2)



The Magic have lost five out of their last six games. Nikola Vucevic is the only offensive threat on the team averaging 17 points per game while the rest of the starters are averaging around 12 points per game. Orlando is struggling to get their front court worked out, but until then fans can only hope the Magic can finish the run they’ve started. (BG)

16 (-7)



Here we are again with Boston. It is one of those weeks where the Celtics just seem like a below average team. One week they are a contender, and the next they are not. Sporting a 19-18 record, it shows just how average and mediocre the Celtics actually are. After a season high four game winning streak a couple of weeks ago, Boston has lost five of their last six games and have scored 100 or more points only twice over that stretch. Marcus Smart is still trying to adjust to the team, but with Avery Bradley returning from injury soon, the team shouldn’t use chemistry as an excuse. (JH)

17 (+2)



The Knicks are starting to get consistent play from all of their players and have positioned themselves right in the thick of the Eastern conference playoffs.  Kristaps has shown he is no fluke as a player and defensively has found his way to contribute to this team. Recently Carmelo has been putting up at least five assists a game and showing his offensive side more frequently.  In fact, the Knicks are 4-1 in their last five games. (CV)   

18 (+7)



Well the wait is over as Gobert has returned to the lineup and has defensively helped to fix some of the issues the Jazz were having.  In his two games of full participation of at least 30 minutes, the Jazz are 2-0 and outscoring opponents by 14 ppg.  This is a small sample size and the Jazz have been fortunate in having great productivity out of Rodney Hood, so only time will tell just how good this team will be. (CV)

19 (-1)



Washington is a two man operation, those men being John Wall and Marcin Gortat. John Wall is leading the team in points per game (19.7), assists per game (9.6), and steals per game (2.1). Gortat leads the team in field goal percentage (52 percent) and rebounds per game (9.7). Basically, the Wizards are being carried by two players while the rest of the team has failed to match their form of previous seasons. (BG)

20 (-8)



How far they have fallen. The Hornets have lost their last seven games and a return to early season form seems to be nowhere in sight. The only bright news to come out of Charlotte recently has been the announcement that Michael Kidd Gilchrist has been cleared for contact and will return this season. (LS)

21 (-1)



The Sacramento Kings are the most entertaining team in the league. They aren’t the best basketball team, but all you have to do is watch a game to understand what I’m saying. DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo have a connection on offense and it shouldn’t be overlooked. With Sacramento only two games out of the eighth place in the west, and Cousin’s postgame comments attacking the refs while “keeping it 100”, how can you not watch? (LS)

22 (-)



The Trailblazers are good at rebounding, averaging 46 per game, but their dismal season is defined by the fact that their two guards account for 45 percent of the teams entire per-game scoring. Other than that, this team is made up of role players. Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Meyers Leonard are the key ingredients to a mediocre Trailblazers season. (CW)

23 (+1)



Before defeating the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night, the Nuggets had lost a dismal seven of their last eight games. Besides Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton has had a surprisingly solid season for the ailing nuggets. Not much more can be said besides the fact that the Nuggets are going to continue to struggle this season while their youth develops. (BC)

24 (-1)



Jason Kidd, having been sidelined by a hip injury, may not return to the sidelines this season, not that this season is about to matter anymore. The Bucks look like a lost cause at this point, with many wondering if Greg Monroe was a wise signing due their severe lack of perimeter scoring. (LS)

25 (-4)



This team, much like the Bucks, is on the verge of calling it a lost season. Now healthy, they still can’t manage to put the pieces together. The good news is that they aren’t completely out of the playoff picture, sitting only 5.5 games behind Utah. Should they get it together under App State alum Alvin Gentry, they may be able to sneak in as the eighth seed. (LS)

26 (-)



Karl-Anthony Towns is amazing. Andrew Wiggins is too. But this team is still a year away from being a year away. They finally have a young core that has been missing for basically all of Minnesota’s existence. Now it’s time to evaluate the rest of the pieces and see what they need to do to build around Wiggins and Towns. (LS)

27 (+1)



Owner Mikhail Prokhorov fired head coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned GM Billy King over the weekend, proclaiming he’s learned his lesson. That lesson learned, however, isn’t going to fix the fact that this team has a bleak future without a top-pick, which, oh by the way, they handed off to division foe Boston in a failed experiment. Even worse, John Calipari, whose name has been linked to the Nets quite a few times in recent months, has said he will only leave Kentucky for a 10-year, $120 million deal. (CW)

28 (-1)



Besides a win against the reeling Hornets last week, the Suns have lost 10 of their last 11 games, which led to some of Jeff Hornacek’s coaching staff being fired. The team is nothing close to functional with players throwing fits on the bench and in the locker room. Owner Robert Sarver came out and said the team’s struggles are linked to “millennial culture.” Phoenix is only playing for lottery balls at this point. (JH)

29 (-)



 Byron Scott is not really a coach any more. Rather, he’s a “Tank Commander,” leading his Laker regiment in a war for lottery balls. Perhaps what’s more impressive is his and general manager Mitch Kupchak’s use of subterfuge involving Kobe Bryant. What better way to engineer a losing season than to do it under the guise of the Mamba’s farewell tour. (LS)
30 (-) Philadelphia_76ers_Logo 4-36 The Sixers continue to struggle for another week. The team is overall very young, with the average age for each player being 24 years old. With little to no veterans on the roster the Sixers are finding it hard to find a true leader to push the team forward. Hopefully things will turn around for Philly. (BG)

Contributions from: Chris Warner, Lee Sanderlin, Cameron Vaughn, Ben Cogsdale, Brent Gilmore, Jason Huber