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 10, 5:01 PM EST
NBA power rankings, top 10
1. Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 1)
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 47-21 record and has won eight consecutive games. Talk about getting hot at the right time.
2. Utah Jazz (LW: 3)
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. This has changed big time during an impressive 2020-21 NBA season that currently has Utah with the best record in the Association at 50-18. Will that translate to postseason success? We’ll find out soon enough.
3. Phoenix Suns (LW: 2)
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 now sit at 48-20 and No. 2 in the conference after having lost their past two games. Hopefully, this is not a harbinger of things to come.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (LW: 5)
Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers had picked it up in April prior to some recent struggles. They currently sit at 45-23 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. Whether that happens will depend heavily on how Leonard and George perform during crunch time.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 6)
While Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to play at an MVP level, these Bucks have been pretty darn inconsistent through 64 games. They boast a 43-24, good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. With that said, we’re still talking about a top-end title contender and a team that has won five consecutive. Could the Bucks be primed for a deep playoff run?
6. Brooklyn Nets (Last Week: 4)
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 44-24 on the season. Unfortunately, NBA MVP candidate James Harden is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury. This has led to Brooklyn posting a mere 8-9 in its past 17 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.
7. Denver Nuggets (LW: 7)
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 in the playoffs. 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 10 of 14 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: 8)
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 17-24. There’s also now more concern that James, once again sidelined to an ankle injury, won’t be anywhere near 100% for the play-in tournament. Ouch!
9. Dallas Mavericks (LW: 12)
Luka Doncic is one of the best handful of players in the NBA at this point. The 22-year-old is averaging 28.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.7 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 40-28 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 fifth or sixth seed. Right now, things are looking good in this regard.
10. Miami Heat (LW: 13)
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 37-31 and as the sixthseed in the Eastern Conference. If Miami can avoid the play-in tournament, it could be primed for another deep playoff run.
NBA power rankings: Rising talent, some struggles
11. Portland Trail Blazers (LW: 11)
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, winning seven of eight after a five-game losing streak.
12. Golden State Warriors (LW: 15)
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 37.2 points on 46% shooting from distance in 21 games. It has also led to a rebirth of sorts for the 35-33 Warriors. They are the eighth seed in the west and could be primed for a play-in matchup with the Lakers. What’s even more interesting here is the fact that Golden State is 34-26 in the 60 games Curry has played in this season.
13. New York Knicks (LW: 9)
What an amazing turnaround under new head coach Tom Thibodeau. After winning all of 21 games a season ago, these Knicks currently sit at 38-30 and as a top-four seed back East. They’ve won 13 of their past 16 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.
14. Atlanta Hawks (LW: 10)
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 23-11 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.
15. Washington Wizards (LW: 18)
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) 27-21 record and are pretty much guaranteed a play-in spot. The better news? Westbrook is playing out of his mind next to Beal. He’s averaging 23.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 13.0 assists over the past 32 games. No one wants to face this team right now.
16. Boston Celtics (LW: 14)
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. It has done nothing of substance. Boston is currently the seventh seed back east with a pedestrian 35-33 record. Brad Stevens is firmly on the hot seat. Yeah, this has been the most-disappointing team in the NBA.
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 34-33 and as the ninth seed. It would play the Spurs if the season ended today.
18. 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 six of seven 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.
19. Charlotte Hornets (LW: 19)
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 33-35 and the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
NBA power rankings, outside looking in
20. New Orleans Pelicans (LW: 20)
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 31-37 on the campaign and just lost star forward Zion Williamson to an injury that could cost him the stretch run. Even then, these Pelicans are just 1.5 games out of the final play-in spot.
21. Indiana Pacers (LW: 22)
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 31-36 and as the 10th seed back east. It would take on the ascending Washington Wizards in the play-in tournament if the season ended today.
22. Chicago Bulls (LW: 23)
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 11th spot back east and 2.5 games out of play-in positioning. The ship has sailed on this season. With that said, the future might be bright in the Windy City.
23. Toronto Raptors (LW: 21)
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 27-41. It’s looking more and more like a season of transition for the Raptors.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 24)
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 seven of their past 12 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 win five of six after losing 12 of its previous 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. 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.
27. Oklahoma City Thunder (LW: 26)
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 21 of 22 since a pretty surprising 20-27 start to the campaign. That’s just gross.
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 20-49 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 16-52 Rockets.