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NBA Power Rankings: We have a new legitimate title contender

NBA power rankings: With the 2020-21 NBA season started, there’s an overwhelming favorite to earn the title, as the Los Angeles Lakers seek to repeat as champions. However, the Clippers and Nuggets will have something to say about that out west. Back east, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers could be primed for championship runs. Let’s check in our latest NBA power rankings for the 2020-21 season.

Updated: April 22, 5:14 PM EST

NBA power rankings, top 10

1. Phoenix Suns (LW: 2)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The team that went undefeated in the Orlando bubble and just missed out on the playoffs in the West exchanged Ricky Rubio for Chris Paul at the all-important point guard position. Thus far this season, it’s led to a rebirth for the long-downtrodden Suns in Phoenix. The Suns sit at 42-16 on the season and have won 31-of-38. It’s their best 58-game start since all the way back in 2007-08 when Mike D’Antoni was head coach and Steve Kerr ran the front office. Let that sink in for a second.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Suns, check out #RisePHX rumors, rankings, and news here.

2. Utah Jazz (LW: 3)

NBA power rankings: Utah Jazz
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Quin Snyder has been making lemonade with lemons for much of his Jazz tenure, perpetually searching for viable, consistent scoring and discovering only Donovan Mitchell. Thus far this season, it’s been stunning. Since a 4-4 start to the campaign, Utah has won 40-of-51. That is in no way a typo. This is a legit NBA title contender.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Jazz, check out #TakeNote rumors, rankings, and news here

3. Brooklyn Nets (Last Week: 1)

NBA power rankings, Brooklyn Nets
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Even with Kyrie Irving and Durant missing time recently, these Nets are still among the best teams in the NBA. They sit at 39-20 on the season. Unfortunately, NBA MVP candidate James Harden is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury. This has led to Brooklyn losing four of its past seven and falling to second place in the Eastern Conference.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Nets, check out #WeGoHard rumors, rankings, and news here.

4. Los Angeles Clippers (LW: 5)

NBA power rankings: Los Angeles Clippers
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers have picked it up big time recently. The currently sit at 42-19 on the season and are in the midst of a record-breaking season from three-point range. It has Tyronn Lue’s squad having won 16 of its past 19 and hitting its stride at the exact right time. This squad will be dangerous moving forward.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Clippers, check out #ClipperNation rumors, rankings, and news here.

5. Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 4)

NBA power rankings: Embiid, Simmons and 76ers rising
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

New general manager Daryl Morey comes over from Houston and is assembling a core of players that’s more in line with the modern NBA. Dealing away big man Al Horford’s nightmarish contract was a great move, and surrounding point guard Ben Simmons with shooters like Seth Curry and Danny Green. It has worked out to perfection thus far. Philadelphia currently boasts the best record in the Eastern Conference at 39-19 record. Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level. Ben Simmons has picked his game up after some initial struggles. The addition of veteran point guard George Hill at the trade deadline will help for a playoff push, too.

Related: 50 Top NBA players of 2021 – Historical performance has Zion Williamson on the rise

6. Los Angeles Lakers (LW: 6)

NBA power rankings: Lakers No. 1
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With Anthony Davis and LeBron James set to return from injury here soon, the hope is that the defending champs can hit their stride heading into the playoffs. Los Angeles is just 13-16 since a 22-7 start to the season. However, that’s coincided with injuries to the team’s top star players. It’s hard to push the Lakers too far down in our NBA power rankings until we see them at full strength.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Lakers, check out #LakeShow rumors, rankings, and news here

7. Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 7)

NBA power rankings: Milwaukee Bucks
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to play at an MVP level, these Bucks have been pretty darn inconsistent through 57 games. They boast a 35-22 record, good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. With that said, we’re still talking about a top-end title contender once the Eastern Conference Playoffs come calling.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Bucks, check out #FearTheDeer rumors, rankings, and news here.

8. Atlanta Hawks (LW: 11)

NBA power rankings; Atlanta Hawks, Trae Young
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Inconsistency and more inconsistency. That’s been the name of the game for these Hawks. That led to the firing of head coach Lloyd Pierce earlier in March. The good news is that this team sits at 18-7 under interim head coach Nate McMillan. It looks like a completely different squad with Trae Young leading the charge and off-season acquisitions finally paying off. No one is going to want to play Atlanta in the NBA Playoffs.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Hawks, check out #TrueToAtlanta rumors, rankings, and news here.

9. Denver Nuggets (LW: 8)

NBA power rankings: Denver Nuggets
Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to a recent hot run, it was a mixed back for Denver. That’s changed on a dime. Nikola Jokic is playing at an MVP level. Jamal Murray also. The acquisitions of Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee are also going to help big time for the stretch run. In what has been a common theme this season, that was all derailed earlier in April when Murray suffered a torn ACL. Sadly, this pushes the Nuggets down some. They are no longer a serious threat to the top teams out west. Such is the nature of the beast during a truncated campaign that has been defined by injuries.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Nuggets, check out #MileHighBasketball rumors, rankings, and news here.

10. Boston Celtics (LW: 14)

NBA power rankings: Boston Celtics
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Danny Ainge knows full well that his struggling team needs a shot in the arm. That’s why he pulled off a trade for Orlando Magic star wing Evan Fournier. The wing has played in just four games with Boston and is shooting a mere 41% from the field. As a team, the Celtics have been the most disappointing in the Association. They currently sit at 31-27 on the campaign. That’s unacceptable after winning 48 of 72 games en route to earning a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The good news? Boston has won six of seven.

Related: NBA MVP – Ranking the top-10 candidates, Injuries continue to mount for game’s top stars

NBA power rankings: Rising talent, some struggles

11. New York Knicks (LW: 16)

NBA power rankings: New York Knicks
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s give new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau some credit here. New York sits at a surprising (by their standards) 33-27 on the season. Considered one of the worst teams in the NBA at the start of the season, that is some darn good news in the Big Apple. After all, the Knicks won 21 games all of last season. Julius Randle is playing at an elite clip. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Derrick Rose has acted the part of a boon recently. It has New York shockingly as the fourth seed back east.

12. Portland Trail Blazers (LW: 9)

NBA power rankings: Lillard, McCollum and the Blazers
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Even with C.J. McCollum having just returned from injury, the Blazers are playing at a high level offensively. Led by All-Star Damian Lillard, they are averaging 115 points per game. Unfortunately, the team is also giving up over 115. That doesn’t seem to be sustainable. Portland is also in the midst of a tough stretch that has seen it lose seven of nine. The team must pick it up big time if it wants to be seen as a legit conference title contender.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Blazers, check out #RipCity rumors, rankings, and news here.

13. Golden State Warriors (LW: 15)

NBA power rankings: Golden State Warriors
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry appears to have lit a fire under this previously struggling squad. Since returning from a tailbone injury, the Warriors’ all-time leading scorer is averaging 38.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 47% shooting from distance in 12 games. It’s not a coincidence that Golden State is 7-5 in those 12 games after having lost four consecutive. Now the ninth seed in the Western Conference, the question becomes whether other members of the team can step it up.

Read More: Who the Golden State Warriors would like to face in the Play-In Tournament

14. Dallas Mavericks (LW: 10)

NBA power rankings: Luka Doncic, Mavs crack top 10
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic is one of the best handful of players in the NBA at this point. The 22-year-old is averaging 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists this season. He’s also out here making history in 2020-21. It has also led to a resurgence for Dallas. The team has currently sits at 31-26 after some major struggles to open the season. The bigger story in Big D right now is the acquisition of sharpshooting guard J.J. Redick. He’s going to help Doncic big time moving forward.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Mavericks, check out #MFFL rumors, rankings, and news here.

15. Miami Heat (LW: 12)

NBA power rankings: Miami Heat
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After a surprise run to the NBA Finals in which they pushed the Lakers to six games despite Bam Adebayo being beat up and Goran Dragic missing most of the series, Miami is running it back. Unfortunately, COVID issues relating to Jimmy Butler and other players have impacted this team in a big way. After some recent success, Miami finds itself at 31-28 and as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Pat Riley also did this team a solid by acquiring All-Star guard Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately, consistency issues could hold this team back moving forward.

16. San Antonio Spurs (LW: 13)

NBA power rankings: San Antonio Spurs
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio, once again, returned the core of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge from a team that missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996-97. There was some thought that Gregg Popovich and Co. were going to blow this up and start anew. That did not happen. After a 2-4 start to the season, San Antonio stepped it up and is in playoff positioning. Currently the 10th seed out west, these Spurs would partake in a play-in tournament if the season ended today. That’s because the team has lost eight of 12.

Related: NBA games today – TV schedule, best bets and fantasy picks

17. Memphis Grizzlies (LW: 17)

NBA power rankings: Memphis Grizzlies
Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. represent one of the better young tandems in the NBA. At issue here is the knee injury Jackson suffered during the NBA restart in Orlando this past summer. He’s still sidelined. Outside of these two, the Grizzlies lack the true talent to be considered a top-end contender out west. Despite this, Taylor Jenkins has his team playing competitive ball. They are 29-28 on the season. It’s been pretty surprising.

18. Charlotte Hornets (LW: 19)

NBA power rankings: Charlotte Hornets
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier make for a fine backcourt. The addition of guard LaMelo Ball at the top of the 2020 NBA Draft was great. Meanwhile, Charlotte did add a former All-Star in that of Gordon Hayward at a high cost. After an amazing rookie season, Ball suffered a fractured wrist earlier in March. Though, he could be back here soon. Despite this, the Hornets are 28-29 on the campaign and find themselves as the eighth seed back east. Once Ball returns, this could be a dangerous team.

NBA power rankings, outside looking in

19. Toronto Raptors (LW: 22)

NBA power rankings: Toronto Raptors
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

NBA champions two years ago and a surprisingly frisky foe in their title defense, the Raptors aren’t who they were when Kawhi Leonard was on the team. That’s come out in droves with Pascal Siakam and Co. struggling to a disastrous start in Tampa Bay. Toronto currently sits at 25-34. It’s looking more and more like a season of transition for the Raptors. The positive news? Toronto has won four consecutive and is battling for a spot in the play-in tournament.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Raptors, check out #WeTheNorth rumors, rankings, and news here.

20. Washington Wizards (LW: 23)

NBA power rankings: Bradley Beal, Wizards
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We were super excited to see how Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook would look in the same backcourt. For Beal, that’s a major upgrade after the recently-traded John Wall missed pretty much each of the past two seasons. Primarily due to a defense that has given up an absurd 118 points per game, Washington struggled to 5-15 start to the season. With that said, Washington currently finds itself in play-in positioning. No team is going to want to take on Beal and Westbrook with that due playing at its current level.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Wizards, check out #WashWizards rumors, rankings, and news here

21. Indiana Pacers (LW: 20)

NBA power rankings: Indiana Pacers
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana’s attempt to land Gordon Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics failed miserably. It could have set this team back, especially with the long-term situation relating to All-Star guard Victor Oladipo being unsettled prior to his trade to the Houston Rockets. Despite both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon playing at All-NBA levels, we’ve seen some major struggles in Indiana recently. The team sits at 27-31 and as the ninth seed back east.

22. Chicago Bulls (LW: 21)

NBA power rankings: Chicago Bulls
Jorge N ez-EFE via USA TODAY Sports

Related: 2021 NBA mock draft – Huge surprise to the Orlando Magic at one

Zach LaVine. Zach LaVine. More Zach LaVine. The first-time All-Star has been absolutely dominating for a surprising Bulls team this season. He’s averaging 27.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists on a resounding 51% shooting from the field. Chicago’s brass then pulled off the biggest trade of the deadline, acquiring one of the game’s best bigs in Nikola Vučević. Not only is this going to help the team as it pushes for a playoff spot, it’s a huge move going forward. As it is, Chicago holds the 10th spot back east and has lost 12 of 17. It needs to turn things around big time.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Pacers, check out #AlwaysGame rumors, rankings, and news here

23. New Orleans Pelicans (LW: 18)

NBA power rankings: New Orleans Pelicans
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Did New Orleans improve this offseason by trading Jrue Holiday? We’re not too sure. What we do know is that a core two of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram was thought to have this team in playoff contention throughout the season. It’s been a mixed bag thus far. New Orleans sits at 25-33 on the season and has lost four consecutive. The good news? Williamson is more than living up to his billing. He’s averaging 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 63% shooting over the past 30 games. The bad news? Last season’s struggles at the Bubble in Orlando have extended to the 2020-21 campaign and has Nola battling for nothing more than a play-in spot.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Pelicans, check out #WontBowDown rumors, rankings, and news here

24. Oklahoma City Thunder (LW: 24)

NBA power rankings: Oklahoma City Thunder
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The future is bright for these Thunder. They legitimately have like 20 first-round picks over the next half-decade. However, that’s not going to lead to success in 2020-21 after trading away star guards Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder. However, we’re excited to see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander morph into a star. He’s averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists on the season for the 20-34 team. Unfortunately, a long-term foot injury has SGA sidelined for the foreseeable future and has OKC in the midst of a 12-game losing streak. Ouch!

25. Sacramento Kings (LW: 25)

NBA power rankings: Sacramento Kings
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, Sacramento has star power in that of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton. That did not translate to much success earlier in the season. Unfortunately, it’s been all about a lack of consistency. Sacramento is now in the midst of a stretch that has seen it lose 10 of 12. It could end up costing Luke Walton his job.

Related: Hungry for more NBA news? Tap here for the hottest headlines breaking right now.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 28)

NBA power rankings: Minnesota Timberwolves
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Yuck. That’s the best way to describe these Timberwolves this season. They entered the year with the expectation that D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would hit their groove together. Instead, they’ve paired up in just a couple handfuls of games due to injury and COVID-related issues. With those two now back and starring with NBA Rookie of the Year favorite Anthony Edwards, the Wolves have actually won two of their past four. Baby steps!

27. Cleveland Cavaliers (LW: 26)

NBA power rankings: Cleveland Cavaliers
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland did a tremendous job in adding wing Isaac Okoro in the 2020 NBA Draft. The team also has two stud young guards in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, who are living up to the hype amid what was a hot start. Unfortunately, that has come crashing down recently. Cleveland has lost 28-of-40 and is closer to the cellar in the Eastern Conference than battling for a playoff spot.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Cavaliers, check out #Cavs rumors, rankings, and news here

NBA power rankings: The bottom three

28. Detroit Pistons (LW: 27)

NBA power rankings: Detroit Pistons
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The recent trade of Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin’s departure are two clear indications that the Pistons are in full-scale rebuild mode. The good news? This team is finally going into full-scale rebuild mode. Rookie Saddiq Bey is averaging 13.1 points on 45% shooting from distance since the start of February. With Griffin now gone from Detroit, the focus will be on the youngsters for the 18-41 Pistons.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Pistons, check out #DetroitUp rumors, rankings, and news here

29. Orlando Magic (LW: 29)

NBA power rankings: Orlando Magic
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Having lost 29-of-39 since a 6-2 start to the season, there’s some major concerns in Orlando right now. That includes star guard Markelle Fultz being lost for the season due to a torn ACL. Recent trades of Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vučević has this team starting over anew with a rebuild. It’s now right there with the Houston Rockets as the least-talented squad in the Association.

30. Houston Rockets (LW: 30)

Houston Rockets must now go into rebuild mode.
JCarmen Mandato/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The current iteration of these Rockets looked like one of the worst teams in the NBA following the James Harden blockbuster trade. That’s not hyperbole. The recent lopsided trade of Victor Oladipo to the Miami Heat adds to this. We’re talking about a potentially historically bad team that’s coming off a 20-game losing streak. There’s no end in sight for the 15-44 Rockets.

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