NBA Power Rankings: Philly rises, Phoenix makes history

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The Phoenix Suns won their 10th straight game on Sunday, cementing Monty Williams’ spot as head coach of the NBA All-Star Game’s Team LeBron as he leads the top squad in the Western Conference. The 40-9 Suns sit atop the NBA, ahead of the West rival Golden State Warriors, who own the league’s second-best record at 37-13.

The Warriors boast two All-Stars who will make the trip to Cleveland, as Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins were named starters on Thursday.

The head coach of Team Durant is still up in the air, as the Eastern Conference race remains tight. The Miami Heat are No. 1 in the standings, half a game ahead of the Chicago Bulls. The Philadelphia 76ers are 1.5 games back of the top spot, while the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks are each two games back, just half a game in front of the Brooklyn Nets.

While the Warriors and Suns have a hold on the West, the East race will continue to play out ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

1. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 40-9
Previous ranking: 1

With their win at Utah on Wednesday, the Suns completed their second 8-0 run in road games in a calendar month this season. (They also went 8-0 on the road in November.) According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Phoenix became the first team in NBA history to go 8-0 or better on the road in multiple calendar months in a single season. Also, at 16-0 in November and 13-1 in January, Phoenix becomes the only team this season with a winning percentage of over .900 in two different months. In fact, no other team has done that once. — Lopez


2. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 37-13
Previous ranking: 2

The Warriors completed a 6-1 homestand with a win over the Nets on Saturday. The fact that Golden State did it without Draymond Green, who is still dealing with a disk issue in his back, and with Stephen Curry still in the midst of a shooting slump (just 36.9% from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc in January) makes it that much more impressive. — Friedell


3. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 35-17
Previous ranking: 3

Ja Morant, voted in as a starter for his first All-Star selection, is in the midst of the best scoring binge in Memphis franchise history. He has scored at least 30 points in six straight games, the longest such streak by a Grizzlies player, and he had the highest-scoring triple-double in franchise history with 30 points in Friday’s win over the Jazz. Morant has scored 400 points in January — the most in any month by a Grizzly — and still has a game to go.— MacMahon


4. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 32-18
Previous ranking: 4

Miami dropped a triple-overtime thriller to the Raptors on Saturday, but the Heat should be able to keep their strong momentum rolling into February, given how well Jimmy Butler is playing. The 32-year-old swingman is averaging 26.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists over his past four games. — Friedell


5. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 30-19
Previous ranking: 7

As Joel Embiid continues to dominate — and now has become the odds-on favorite to win this year’s NBA Most Valuable Player Award — the wait is on to see if the 76ers will do anything with Ben Simmons between now and the trade deadline. When Embiid plays this season, Philadelphia is 27-11 — and that’s with Simmons sidelined. — Bontemps


6. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 31-21
Previous ranking: 5

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday has made a strong case to be named an All-Star reserve later this week. Holiday’s numbers have been consistent in his second year in Milwaukee, with averages of 17.9 points, 6.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds. But the Bucks are playing at a much higher level when he is on the floor, outscoring teams by 13.9 points per 100 possessions as compared to when he sits. — Collier


7. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 31-18
Previous ranking: 6

DeMar DeRozan will become the first Bulls player to start the All-Star game since 2017, but he almost certainly will not be heading to Cleveland alone. Teammate Zach LaVine could be named an All-Star reserve this week, giving the Bulls a pair of All-Stars for the first time since Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol in 2015-16. — Collier


8. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 28-21
Previous ranking: 12

Nikola Jokic was already putting up eye-popping MVP numbers, but now the Nuggets are backing up his campaign to repeat with the wins. Denver has won five straight games, a streak that includes decisions over Brooklyn and Milwaukee. Jokic has five triple-doubles in his past nine outings. Denver’s streak will be put to the test this week with a tough back-to-back at Minnesota and Utah. Michael Malone and the Nuggets deserve a ton of credit for being in the top five in the West without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. — Youngmisuk


9. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 29-22
Previous ranking: 9

Luka Doncic didn’t receive any media votes to be an All-Star starter, but if his recent performance is a sign of what’s to come the rest of the season, he will get plenty of All-NBA votes again after being a first-team selection the past two years. Doncic, who sources tell ESPN has dropped about 15 pounds during the season, has averaged 30 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.3 assists over the past seven games. — MacMahon


10. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 30-20
Previous ranking: 11

It was the best of times: The Cavs beat defending champion Milwaukee by 16 on Wednesday for their eighth win in nine games at the time. It was the worst of times: The Cavs, with three days off following the Bucks win, lost by 10 to a Pistons team with the second-worst record in the league on Sunday. — McMenamin


11. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 29-20
Previous ranking: 10

Brooklyn has had its superstar trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden together for a little over a year. Remarkably, they have only played 10 regular-season games together for a grand total of 234 regular-season minutes, including just 32 this season. Those numbers won’t change for another several weeks, either, as Durant remains out with an MCL sprain. — Bontemps


12. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 30-21
Previous ranking: 8

January has been a miserable month for the Jazz, who have lost 11 of the past 13 games. COVID-19 has swept through the roster and coaching staff, hitting coach Quin Snyder on Sunday. Their franchise cornerstones, Rudy Gobert (strained calf) and Donovan Mitchell (concussion), have missed the past several contests. And Joe Ingles, a critical part of the Jazz’s success in recent years on and off the court, is feared to have suffered a serious knee injury Sunday night. — MacMahon


13. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 28-23
Previous ranking: 13

Charlotte had a 2-2 week but got blown out at home by an undermanned Clippers team on Sunday. The recurring issue for the Hornets remains the same: Are they going to have enough defensively to push them into the postseason? They have given up an average of 119.2 points over their past five games. — Friedell


14. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 24-23
Previous ranking: 14

While Toronto won a thrilling game in Miami in triple-overtime Saturday night, it was another reminder of the heavy minutes the team’s leading performers are playing each night. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are first, second and third in minutes per game this season, while rookie Scottie Barnes is 12th. At some point, Toronto might have to be concerned about the strain that’s putting on them. For now, though, the Raptors will be content with continuing to move up the East standings. — Bontemps


15. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 24-25
Previous ranking: 21

Atlanta ran its win streak to seven games on Sunday with a comeback victory over the Lakers. The Hawks also got a boost in the fourth quarter from Onyeka Okongwu, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the final frame. In 17 games this season, Okongwu is averaging 9.7 points and six rebounds on 74.4% shooting; he hasn’t shot below 50% from the field in any game. — Lopez


16. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 26-25
Previous ranking: 17

While it’s been a second straight frustrating season in Boston, one thing that Celtics fans should be genuinely excited about is the play of Robert Williams III. The fourth-year center, whom the Celtics signed to a contract extension before the season, has taken a significant step forward this season — in his play and because he has been able to stay on the court. He gives Boston a third critical player to build around, along with stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. — Bontemps


17. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 25-25
Previous ranking: 15

A key component to the Timberwolves’ success this season: forcing turnovers. Minnesota forces opponents into approximately 17 turnovers per game, which leads the NBA. The Wolves have caused at least 10 turnovers in 46 straight games. — Collier


18. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 26-26
Previous ranking: 19

No Kawhi Leonard. No Paul George. And yet the Clippers not only remain in the West playoff race with a 26-26 record, they’ve proved beyond any doubt they will continue to fight no matter what the odds are. Ty Lue’s team has won three of its past four, including coming back from 35 down to stun the Wizards in Washington on Tuesday. During this month alone, the Clippers have won three games after coming back from 24 or more down, becoming the first team to win three such games in the past 25 seasons. Luke Kennard is playing like the versatile guard that the Clippers envisioned when they gave him a four-year, $64 million deal in 2020. The team’s chemistry is growing, and the Clippers’ defense has been stingy, holding high-scoring Charlotte to 90 points on Sunday. The Clips will end their eight-game road trip on Monday in Indiana, before returning home to face the Lakers on Thursday.— Youngmisuk


19. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 24-27
Previous ranking: 16

Russell Westbrook‘s play picked up considerably after being benched late in the game against Indiana. Since the controversial substitution, Westbrook has averaged 22 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 3.7 turnovers in six games. The highlight of the stretch was his 35 points without LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Charlotte, nearly taking down the Hornets sans his cohorts. — McMenamin


20. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 23-26
Previous ranking: 18

Things are unraveling in Washington. All those feel-good wins to start the season have been replaced by serious doubt and frustration. The Wizards have lost five straight games, including suffering one of the worst defeats in franchise history when Washington blew a 35-point lead at home to the Paul George-less Clippers on Tuesday. The frustration was palpable after that debacle. The Wizards have a lot of players fighting for minutes and new contracts, and they aren’t on the same page right now. And it’s only getting harder. Washington’s next five games are at Milwaukee, at Philadelphia and at home against Phoenix, Miami and Brooklyn. — Youngmisuk


21. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 23-27
Previous ranking: 20

It’s gone from bad to worse in New York, where Cam Reddish remains exiled to the end of the bench and the Knicks have now lost six of their past seven. Home games against Sacramento and Memphis to begin the week will be followed by a five-game West Coast trip through the Feb. 10 trade deadline. What will the Knicks look like when they return home? — Bontemps


22. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 21-29
Previous ranking: 22

After a stretch that saw them win six of eight games and get healthier, the Blazers have stumbled again. Portland has lost three of the past four games, including blowout losses at the hands of Dallas and Chicago. Still, Portland hovers at the 10th spot in the West. It will be interesting to see what the Blazers do as the trade deadline approaches. — Youngmisuk


23. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 18-31
Previous ranking: 23

Already without Zion Williamson (foot) for the entire season so far, the Pelicans have struggled without Brandon Ingram in the lineup. New Orleans is 16-20 in games Ingram has played but 2-11 in games he sits. The Pelicans’ 3-point shooting has suffered, as they are 28-of-118 (23.7%) from deep in the past four games. Ingram has missed all of them with a sprained right ankle. — Lopez


24. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 19-32
Previous ranking: 26

While the Spurs sit toward the bottom of the league in 3-pointers made, forward Keldon Johnson‘s shooting this season has been a bright spot. Johnson was 13-of-22 on treys as a rookie in limited action during the 2019-20 season, but his shooting rate dipped to 33.1% a season ago. This season, he is trending in the right direction, shooting 43.7% (86-of-197), which is fourth in the league among qualified players. — Lopez


25. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 18-33
Previous ranking: 24

After missing a week with a sprained ankle, Domantas Sabonis has picked up right where he left off, missing out on a triple-double in consecutive games by two assists during a back-to-back this weekend. He still averaged 22.5 points, 16.5 rebounds, 9 assists, 1.5 blocks and a steal in his first two games back. — Collier


26. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 18-33
Previous ranking: 25

Twenty-five years ago, a disgruntled star was traded from an East coast team to Sacramento and ushered in the greatest era in Kings history. Ben Simmons will not pull a Chris Webber to celebrate the silver anniversary of the franchise-changing deal, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported this week, as the Kings have pulled out of the Simmons sweepstakes. — McMenamin


27. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 14-34
Previous ranking: 28

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be sidelined at least through the All-Star break after spraining his right ankle during Friday’s overtime loss to the Pacers. With the Thunder early in a rebuild — and eyeing the elite frontcourt talent at the top of the next draft class — count on them being extremely patient with their 23-year-old star’s recovery. OKC is 30-48 when Gilgeous-Alexander plays and 6-36 without him over the past two campaigns. — MacMahon


28. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 14-35
Previous ranking: 27

Rookie Jalen Green, the 2021 No. 2 overall draft pick, is battling through another really rough stretch. He is shooting 33.3% from the floor and 24.7% from 3-point range in January. That includes going 7-of-38 from the floor during the Rockets’ current three-game losing streak, missing all 11 of his shots in a loss to the Warriors. Coach Stephen Silas wants Green to stay aggressive as he goes through growing pains, praising the rookie for earning nine free throws in Friday’s loss to the Trail Blazers. — MacMahon


29. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 12-37
Previous ranking: 29

Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham scored 34 points with eight rebounds, eight assists and four blocks against the Nuggets this week, becoming the first rookie to record that stat line since Michael Jordan in 1973-74, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cunningham, however, is two years younger than Jordan was when he put up those numbers. — Collier


30. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 11-40
Previous ranking: 30

Orlando has won three of its past four games and appears to have found a little rhythm. Forward Chuma Okeke has had a solid run over his past two games, combining for 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in wins over the Pistons and Mavericks. — Friedell

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