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NBA Power Rankings: The Durant-less Brooklyn Nets Highjack the Throne

The Nets prove that no Durant is NO problem. Meanwhile, the Heat and Suns are living up to their names with scorching runs. Can the Raptors and Pelicans, currently outside the playoff bubble, save their seasons? And the Rockets, with 16 straight losses, are a disaster.



Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images

The Intermission is constantly observing, monitoring, and wagering on everything that is the NBA. Every couple of weeks (or so), these Power Rankings will be refreshed. If you like statistical anomalies, entertaining commentary, and judgmental takes, then keep scrolling. And if you take issue with the order, smash that comment box at the bottom.

Functionality: Naturally, rankings of power and positioning are based on a series of factors and are not exclusively dependent on overall win-loss record. If you want just an order of records, look up the NBA Standings. Some elements considered are: Momentum (winning/losing streaks), quality of wins, strength of schedule, injuries, transactions, and of course, the eye test. Let’s get to it!

This Edition’s Synopsis:
Biggest rise: Heat (+13)
Biggest fall: Raptors (-11)
Longest win streaks: 76ers, Nets, Hawks (5)
Longest losing streak: Rockets (16)

1. Brooklyn Nets (27-13)

Previously: 3rd
Point Differential: +5.2
Current Streak: Won 5
Last 10: 9-1

It’s frightening to think that the Nets have risen to the top of these rankings (9-1) in their last 10 games without Kevin Durant (who’s missed 13 of the last 14 games). And while we don’t know exactly what version of Blake Griffin will ultimately show up in Brooklyn, the likelihood that he hurts this team is very slim. I bet we see a “magical” little pep in Blake’s step once he hits the Barclay Center floor. Oh, and James Harden, the playmaking point guard, is scary right now.

2. Philadelphia 76ers (27-12)

Previously: 5th
Point Differential: +5.4
Current Streak: Won 5
Last 10: 8-2

The Sixers are #2, for now. Joel Embiid’s MVP case had continued to swell, as did his left knee. The latest stat line for the big man: 29.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 blocks, 55.9 eFG%. Video game numbers. However, he’s going to miss at least a couple of weeks with a knee injury. While Philly could fade a bit by next edition, their current five-game win streak has them beating opponents by an average of 21.4 points.

3. Utah Jazz (28-10)

Previously: 1st
Point Differential: +8.4
Current Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 5-5

I’m not panicking about the Jazz just yet, but they have hit a slight wall in dropping dropping 4 of 6. They are also in the midst of playing a tough stretch, with 9 of 10 games on the road. Word on the street (several execs around the league) is that the Jazz will make a “serious push” to acquire Meyers Leonard from the Heat on or around the deadline. Hope they’re alright with bringing in some recent (and racist) baggage.

4. Phoenix Suns (26-12)

Previously: 7th
Point Differential: +6.5
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 8-2

The Suns continue to impress, particularly with their NBA-best 13-5 road record. With the third best record in the league and the West looking a little more vulnerable these days, one has to wonder what approach they will take at the trade deadline in potentially adding a veteran piece. Stay tuned on these guys.

5. Los Angeles Lakers (26-13)

Previously: 2nd
Point Differential: +5.7
Current Streak: Won 2
Last 10: 4-6

They haven’t been good lately, but LeBron is holding this thing together. He also declared that he will not be resting in the second half of the season and that it’s “go time” for him. Kyle Kuzma has been delivering some quality minutes for the team. Clearly, this team needs Anthony Davis back, but I can’t help but wonder if seeding will even matter for this team come playoff time.

6. Milwaukee Bucks (25-14)

Previously: 8th
Point Differential: +7.1
Current Streak: Won 4
Last 10: 9-1

The Bucks are rounding into form, putting together a 4-game win streak in the process. It’s interesting that Giannis’ name doesn’t get an appropriate amount of pub within MVP conversations. Maybe now, after he’s recorded three straight triple doubles? Do we have Giannis fatigue? For comparison sake, here are his two MVP seasons, alongside his current one:


I’d say these three seasons are pretty damn close.

7. Los Angeles Clippers (26-15)

Previously: 4th
Point Differential: +5.4
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 4-6

Lately, it’s hard to predict which version of the Clippers is going to show up from night to night, as this team has been wildly inconsistent. Playing back-to-back games against an improved Mavericks team in Dallas will be a real test. They already have one in the bag. If you’re interested in the “superstar load management” count these days, of a possible 41 games, Kawhi Leonard has played in 32, while Paul George has played in only 29.

8. Denver Nuggets (23-16)

Previously: 9th
Point Differential: +4.9
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 7-3

While Nikola Jokic (deservedly) gets most of the attention, let’s check in on his sidekick Jamal Murray. Despite his slow start and recent mini-shooting slump (11-for-40 in his last three games), he’s quietly averaging career-highs in scoring and shooting:

Stat / Season2017201820192020Current

9. Miami Heat (21-18)

Previously: 22nd
Point Differential: -0.9
Current Streak: Won 4
Last 10: 9-1

The Miami Heat take a GIGANTIC leap forward, up from #22 all the way into Top 10. This team is officially terrifying and now resemble the squad that went to the Finals in the bubble last season. Since the last edition of these rankings, they’ve gone 9-1 and are firing on all of the cylinders. Bam Adebayo has missed the last four games and it hasn’t even mattered, as Miami has won all of them.

10. Portland Trail Blazers (22-16)

Previously: 6th
Point Differential: -0.5
Current Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 4-6

While Dame and the Blazers have held it together while overcoming some major injuries, good news might be on the horizon as C.J. McCollum is looking to return next week from a broken foot and Jusuf Nurkic shouldn’t be far behind him. After that, the Blazers could be dangerous.

11. Dallas Mavericks (20-18)

Previously: 15th
Point Differential: -0.3
Current Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 7-3

Last edition, I stated my expectations for the Mavs to be at least over .500. They’ve accomplished that and are on a 7-3 run in their last ten. With Joel Embiid’s expected absence, Luka Doncic (28.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 9.3 assists) now has a more ideal path into the MVP conversation, especially if the Mavs can continue to rise and sneak into the top four seeds in the West.

12. Charlotte Hornets (20-18)

Previously: 17th
Point Differential: +0.1
Current Streak: Won 4
Last 10: 7-3

What a feel-good story MJ’s Hornets have been. Pegged for the bottom of the conference coming into the season, they sit two games over .500 and also a half game out of the East’s 4th seed. LaMelo Ball’s rapid rise to stardom has been astonishing (and this “Melo” torch-passing moment was pretty cool). Look at these numbers since entering the starting lineup:


13. Boston Celtics (20-18)

Previously: 14th
Point Differential: +1.2
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 6-4

Despite a tiny bump in these rankings, the Celtics aren’t true contenders until they make a deadline deal to get another reliable rotation player, particularly a playmaker. Though, Marcus Smart’s return will certainly help their grit factor. And Kemba still isn’t right (shooting 38.8% overall for the season).

14. Atlanta Hawks (19-20)

Previously: 21st
Point Differential: +1.2
Current Streak: Won 5
Last 10: 7-3

The good news: The Hawks, with a 5-game win streak, are in the process of course correcting, after a disappointing start, as they welcomed back Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The bad news: They play 9 of their next 10 games on the road, primarily out west. The unknown: What, if anything, do they do with John Collins at the trade deadline?

15. San Antonio Spurs (20-16)

Previously: 12th
Point Differential: -0.2
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 5-5

Approaching the trade deadline, the Spurs are a team in flux. Currently 7th in the West, with several teams breathing down their necks, it will be interesting to see if they do anything to compete this season or fall back to get a better draft pick for next year. The LaMarcus Aldridge parting of ways (trade scenarios) could be just the tip of the iceberg.

16. New York Knicks (20-20)

Previously: 16th
Point Differential: 0.0
Current Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 6-4

All-Star Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett have been keeping the Knicks in the playoff mix. They’ve combined to lead the team in scoring in 33 of their 40 games so far. As outlined by Dan Devine over at The Ringer, Barrett in particular has shown noticeable growth in his sophomore year. It would certainly be a change of pace to see the New York Knicks as buyers at the deadline.

17. Golden State Warriors (20-20)

Previously: 13th
Point Differential: -0.6
Current Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 4-6

All I’m going to say about the Warriors: Steph Curry (29.3 points, 6.2 assists, 4.7 3PT per game) absolutely deserves his name to be included in the MVP conversation, simply by keeping Golden State in playoff contention. By “Most Valuable Player” definition, if you take Curry off the Warriors, you end up with one of the worst teams in the league. Quick second thing: Klay is persevering.

18. Indiana Pacers (17-21)

Previously: 11th
Point Differential: 0.0
Current Streak: Lost 1
Last 10: 3-7

That “fluster” of wins I expected (2-7) since last edition didn’t really take place. Some random thoughts on this team: 1. Welcome back Caris LeVert! 2. Cassius Stanley’s first dunk proved what a joke the Slam Dunk Contest is. 3. I know fans are absent, but how the hell are the Pacers only 7-11 at home and 10-10 on the road. Protect your house already!

19. New Orleans Pelicans (17-22)

Previously: 20th
Point Differential: +0.2
Current Streak: Won 2
Last 10: 5-5

The record definitely isn’t pretty, but the Pelicans are still in sleeper territory for one of the final playoff spots in the West (only 4 games back as of publishing). But they’ll need a run. Considering their next seven games are against opponents with winning records (and combined 153-112), stringing together a bunch of W’s is going to be an uphill climb.

20. Memphis Grizzlies (17-19)

Previously: 18th
Point Differential: +0.3
Current Streak: Lost 3
Last 10: 4-6

Jonas Valanciunas continues to be a tremendously underrated player in this league. Though it feels like he’s been around forever, remember that he’s still only 28 years old! Some of his numbers are actually up from his career digits, in his third full season with the Grizzlies:


21. Toronto Raptors (17-22)

Previously: 10th
Point Differential: +0.5
Current Streak: Lost 5
Last 10: 3-7

The Raps have fallen off a cliff, and now outside the playoff picture. While most teams have been touched negatively by the COVID bug at some point this season, it’s currently ravaging the Raptors. With two of their three best players sidelined (Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet have now missed multiple games), it’s shown the major cracks in the team’s depth, which was once it’s calling card. Those two guys need to get back in a hurry in order to save their season.

22. Chicago Bulls (17-20)

Previously: 19th
Point Differential: -0.5
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 5-5

The Bulls are in an interesting spot, with the ability to be buyers or sellers at the deadline, given their close proximity to a playoff spot. They also have a deep, young roster, with seven players averaging double digit points. They certainly welcome back Lauri Markkanen to the lineup. And like the Pacers above, Chicago is another team with a favorable road record (9-7) compared to that at home (8-13). Go figure.

23. Oklahoma City Thunder (17-22)

Previously: 25th
Point Differential: -5.3
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 6-4

These Thunder kids (+ Al Horford) just will not give up. They’ve won 3 of 4 and those casualties include the Grizzlies, Mavs, and Spurs. At this point, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has to be considered one of the favorites for Most Improved Players. I mean, just look at this 3-year progression:


24. Sacramento Kings (15-24)

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Previously: 23rd
Point Differential: -5.2
Current Streak: Lost 2
Last 10: 3-7

The wheels haven’t come “off” in Sacramento, but they’re pretty wobbly at this point. It’s hard to see them as buyers at the deadline just to make a playoff push and get destroyed in the first round. This collection of players is just fun. Exhibit A below:

25. Washington Wizards (14-24)

Previously: 26th
Point Differential: -5.5
Current Streak: Lost 4
Last 10: 3-7

Don’t look now, but Russ is averaging close to a triple-double once again: 21.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 10.1 assists. And you KNOW he’s going to go for it by season’s end. One intriguing number to throw out there regarding Bradley Beal. While he’s leading the league in scoring, he’s shooting only 32.9% from three (he’s 37.6% for his career). Surprising, given the volume of points he’s putting up.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-24)

Previously: 28th
Point Differential: -8.4
Current Streak: Lost 3
Last 10: 4-6

Rookie Isaac Okoro is a statistical enigma. He’s started all 33 games he’s played in, averages 32.8 minutes per game, yet his PER (Player Effectiveness Ratio) is only 6.14. The league average is considered 15.00. He’s at 7.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, shooting 40.2%. Playing that many minutes, wouldn’t you almost accidently have better numbers than that? Or, is that just me?

27. Orlando Magic (13-26)

Previously: 27th
Point Differential: -7.1
Current Streak: Lost 8
Last 10: 2-8

Well, Aaron Gordon will likely be gone in a matter of days, signifying yet another, you guessed it, Orlando Magic rebuild. Sure, they’ve had some injuries, but the pieces they have accumulated over the past couple of seasons either don’t fit, or suck. It’s just ugly.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-30)

Previously: 30th
Point Differential: -7.7
Current Streak: Won 1
Last 10: 2-8

The Wolves have some talent, but just not enough of it. But unlike the Pistons (below), there is star power here with Towns, Russell, even Malik Beasley (pre-prison time) and potentially No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards (who enjoys dunking, and dunking hard). If we’re being honest though, every time I see LaMelo Ball make a fantastic play over in Charlotte, I wince just a bit for Minnesota, who could/should have taken him last year. This is already looking like a big swing and miss.

29. Detroit Pistons (10-29)

Previously: 29th
Point Differential: -4.0
Current Streak: Lost 4
Last 10: 2-8

Ugh, this team is just so… unfun. Respectfully, when Mason Plumlee is second on your team in assists, you might have a thin roster (I actually do like what Plum has provided this year). Out are Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, in are Dennis Smith Jr. and Hamidou Diallo (whom I like here). It’s a little redecorating, but who’s even coming out to see this? The city of Detroit is suffering big time in the sports universe right now.

30. Houston Rockets (11-26)

Previously: 24th
Point Differential: -6.6
Current Streak: Lost 16
Last 10: 0-10

WHAT. A. MESS. Boogie Cousins is gone, John Wall is barely playing these days, and Victor Oladipo is probably on his way out at the deadline. So it’s just a bunch of young guys and Christian Wood. Now, do I think that the Pistons, Wolves, and Magic are worse teams than the Rockets? Yes, I do. However, if you can manage to lose SIXTEEN consecutive games, that’s some kind of special. One that warrants a plummet to the bottom of the rankings. They’re one game into a 7-game homestand, so we’ll see if they can snap this curse. Until then, no mercy.

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