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: May 3, 2:06 PM EST
NBA power rankings, top 10
1. Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 5)
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 43-21 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 the playoffs, too.
2. Phoenix Suns (LW: 1)
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. Despite recent road losses to the Nets and Celtics, the Suns are in the midst of a four-game winning streak that has seen them take out Western Conference powerhouses in that of the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. Phoenix now sits at 46-18 and tied for the top spot in the entire NBA with Utah.
3. Utah Jazz (LW: 2)
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. Despite being tied for the best record in the NBA, these Jazz have also hit some hard times down the stretch. They’ve lost three out of five, including consecutive defeats at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
4. Brooklyn Nets (Last Week: 3)
Even with Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant missing time this season, these Nets are still among the best teams in the NBA. They sit at 43-22 on the season. Unfortunately, NBA MVP candidate James Harden is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury. This has led to Brooklyn posting a mere 7-6 record in its past 13 games. The hope is that the Big 3 will be available in the playoffs. If so, these Nets still have to be seen as the Eastern Conference favorites.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (LW: 4)
Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers had picked it up in April prior to some recent struggles. They currently sit at 43-22 on the season and are in the midst of a record-breaking season from three-point range. It has Tyronn Lue’s squad thinking that Los Angeles might be able to finally make a deep playoff run. Unfortunately, a three-game losing streak — all against Western Conference foes — isn’t great leading into the playoffs.
6. Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 7)
While Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to play at an MVP level, these Bucks have been pretty darn inconsistent through 64 games. They boast a 40-24 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.
7. Denver Nuggets (LW: 9)
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. The good news? Denver has won nine of 10 since their second-best player went down. Whether that’s sustainable in what looks to be an elite Western Conference remains to be seen.
8. Los Angeles Lakers (LW: 6)
Even with Anthony Davis and LeBron James having returned from injuries recently, the former champs look like a shell of their 2019-20 selves. Los Angeles is shockingly currently the seventh seed out west and would have to take part in a play-in tournament if the season were to end today. Since starting the season 21-6, the Lakers are 15-22. They have also lost six of seven with three consecutive defeats at the hands of the Wizards, Kings and Raptors. Just ouch!
9. New York Knicks (LW: 11)
What an amazing turnaround under new head coach Tom Thibodeau. After winning all of 21 games a season ago, these Knicks currently sit at 36-28 and as a top-four seed back East. They’ve won 11 of their past 12 games. Julius Randle looks like a legit NBA MVP candidate. Wing R.J. Barrett has upped his game big time as a sophomore. Meanwhile, the addition of Derrick Rose has given the Knicks a true veteran reinforcement. While conference title contention may be a year away, these Knicks are on an upward trajectory for the first time in eons and will be a hard out in the playoffs.
10. Atlanta Hawks (LW: 8)
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 21-10 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 despite consecutive losses to the conference leading 76ers.
NBA power rankings: Rising talent, some struggles
11. Portland Trail Blazers (LW: 12)
With C.J. McCollum having 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 in the playoffs. Portland has also been darn inconsistent, losing five consecutive prior to a recent four-game winning streak. The hope here is that these Blazers have turned the corner and continue this hot streak into the postseason. Unfortunately, history is not in their favor.
12. Dallas Mavericks (LW: 14)
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 36-28 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 once the playoffs come calling. The only question here is whether Dallas will have to partake in the play-in tournament or avoids it as the sixth seed out west.
13. Miami Heat (LW: 15)
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 35-30 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, he’s suite dup in all of four games due to injury. Miami will need Oladipo back if its to make a run in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
14. Boston Celtics (LW: 10)
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 10 games with Boston and is shooting a mere 38% from the field. As a team, the Celtics have been the most disappointing in the Association. They currently sit at 34-31 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. With recent losses to the Hornets and Thunder, things are not looking great here.
15. Golden State Warriors (LW: 13)
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 36.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 46% shooting from distance in 15 games. Unfortunately for the Warriors, a recent hot streak gave way to consecutive blowout losses to the Mavericks and Timberwolves. The good news? Golden State currently sits as the ninth seed in the Western Conference with a 32-32 record and is pretty much guaranteed a spot in the play-in tournament out west
16. San Antonio Spurs (LW: 16)
After some surprising success earlier this season, the Spurs have fallen on hard times under the legendary Gregg Popovich. They’ve lost three consecutive games and are currently under .500. It’s unfortunate given that two of those losses — to the Celtics and 76ers on the road — came in overtime. Right now, San Antonio is battling for the final play-in spot with the New Orleans Pelicans.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (LW: 17)
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 and right in the mix for a play-in spot out west. Memphis currently finds itself at 32-31 and as the eighth seed. It would play the Lakers if the season ended today.
18. Washington Wizards (LW: 20)
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. Since then, the Wizards have posted a tremendous (by their standards) 24-20 record and are right in the mix for a play-in spot. The better news? Westbrook is playing out of his mind next to Beal. He’s averaging 22.7 points, 13.5 rebounds and 12.3 assists over the past 21 games. Holy cats!
19. Charlotte Hornets (LW: 18)
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 missing 21 games to injury, Ball has returned to action. It could act as a shot in the arm for a Hornets team that’s just 4-9 in its past 13 games and is still battling for a play-in spot back east.
NBA power rankings, outside looking in
20. New Orleans Pelicans (LW: 23)
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 29-35 on the season and is battling for the final play-in spot out west. Williamson is more than living up to his billing. He’s averaging 29.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 62% shooting over the past 20 games.
21. Toronto Raptors (LW: 19)
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 27-38. It’s looking more and more like a season of transition for the Raptors. Despite this, Toronto is still just 2.5 games out of a play-in spot back east.
22. Indiana Pacers (LW: 21)
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 30-33 and as the ninth seed back east.
23. Chicago Bulls (LW: 22)
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 12th spot back east and has lost 16-of-23. The ship has sailed on this season. With that said, the future might be bright in the Windy City.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 26)
Baby steps. These Wolves have proven themselves to be pretty darn good when Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and rookie No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards are actually on the court together. In fact, the Timberwolves have won six of their past nine games after starting 14-42. Already eliminated from playoff contention, it won’t have an impact this season. With that said, Minnesota’s core three could take a major step forward in 2021-22, especially if Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2021 goes to Golden State this summer.
25. Sacramento Kings (LW: 25)
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 12 of 17 and find itself pretty much out of the running for a play-in spot out west. It could end up costing Luke Walton his job.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (LW: 24)
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. Unfortunately, a recent injury to star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has these Thunder spiraling downward. They have lost 16 of 17 since a pretty surprising 20-27 start to the campaign.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (LW: 27)
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 32-of-42 and is closer to the cellar in the Eastern Conference than battling for a playoff spot.
NBA power rankings: The bottom three
28. Detroit Pistons (LW: 28)
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 19-45 Pistons.
29. Orlando Magic (LW: 29)
Having lost 42-of-56 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)
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 16-49 Rockets.