Tommy Beer is back with his latest version of
BasketballNews.com's NBA Power Rankings. To read last week's
version, click here.
The Phoenix Suns finally push past the Golden State Warriors to
grab the top spot in the Basketball News Power Rankings for the
first time this season, while the Cleveland Cavaliers climb into
the top five.
1. Phoenix Suns (24-5) ⬆️ Last Week:
The Suns have posted a ridiculous 23-2 record over their last 25
games. And Phoenix welcomed back leading-scorer Devin Booker, who
hadn't played in almost three weeks after injuring his hamstring in
late November, in their 137-106 thrashing of the Charlotte Hornets
on Sunday night. The Suns have also gotten tremendous production
from sharpshooter Cam Johnson this month. He's averaging 14.2
points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 made triples (while shooting better
than 44% from downtown) over his past nine contests.
2. Golden State Warriors (25-6) ⬇️ Last
Golden State played without Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole
(both are in health and safety protocols) but was still able to
beat the Sacramento Kings by 15 points on Monday night, as they
improved to a league-best 15-2 at home. Draymond Green led the way
for the Warriors, racking up 16 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists,
2 blocks and 2 steals. It was Green's 31st triple-double of
his career. Remarkably, Golden State has won 30 of the 31 games in
which Green has recorded a triple-double.
3. Brooklyn Nets (21-9) ⬆️
Last Week: 4
The Nets made headlines last week when they announced that
All-Star guard Kyrie Irving would be welcomed back to Brooklyn.
Although Irving remains unvaccinated, which will prevent him from
playing in home games due to New York City's vaccine mandates,
Kyrie will be able to practice with the team and play in road games
(except for the matchups with the New York Knicks at Madison Square
Garden and the Toronto Raptors up north). The Nets roster has been
decimated by COVID-19 of late, with 10 players, in addition to
several staff members, in health and safety protocols.
4. Utah Jazz (21-9) ⬇️ Last Week:
Not only is Rudy Gobert dominating the paint per usual
(averaging 15.4 points and 15.0 rebounds this season) while also
leading the league in FG% (72.3%). He's also shooting a career-high
69.3% from the free-throw stripe thanks to a revamped shooting
stroke. His complete skill set was on display in Monday's victory
over the Hornets, as Gobert racked up 23 points and 21 rebounds
while knocking down a career-high 15 free throws on 16
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-12) ⬆️ Last
The NBA announced Sunday that a total of five games involving
nine teams would be postponed in response to COVID-19 outbreaks
impacting several squads. One of the postponed contests was the
Cleveland-Atlanta game scheduled for Sunday night after the Cavs,
who have won six in a row, announced that five players entered
protocols earlier that day. According to The Associated Press, all
five Cavs — Jarrett Allen, Lamar Stevens, Dylan Windler, Denzel
Valentine and RJ Nembhard — tested positive for COVID-19.
6. Milwaukee Bucks (19-13) ⬇️ Last Week:
The Bucks, forced to play without both Giannis Antetokounmpo
(health and safety) and Khris Middleton ((left knee
hyperextension), have lost two in a row. They look to get back on
track Wednesday vs. the Houston Rockets, and it sounds like there
is a good chance Middleton will be cleared to return to
7. Chicago Bulls (19-10) ⬇️ Last Week:
The Bulls took plenty of heat for signing DeMar DeRozan to a
three-year, $85 million contract last offseason, but the early
returns have been exceedingly positive. Not only is DeRozan
averaging a team-high 26.8 points, but he's also scoring them when
Chicago needs them most. DeMar is averaging a league-best 8.0
points per game in the fourth quarter of games this season. He is
shooting a scorching 54.2% from the floor, 45.5% from downtown and
91.2% from the free-throw line in the final frame.
8. Miami Heat (18-13) ⬆️ Last Week:
The shorthanded Heat have won 2 of their last 3, thanks partly
to a very unexpected lift from Max Strus, who spoke to our Spencer Davies at the
beginning of last week. The unheralded third-year pro exploded
for a career-high 32 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 8 treys
in a win over the Orlando Magic on Friday. He followed that up with
24 more points and four more triples on Sunday.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (19-13) ⬇️ Last Week:
The Grizzlies surprisingly posted a 10-2 record in 12 games Ja
Morant missed due to a sprained left knee. The star point guard
returned to action Monday night and played well, tallying 16
points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in less than 30 minutes. However,
after the game, Morant told reporters that some fans told him he
should sit back out. He acknowledged that "the remarks from the fans actually
hurt," but Ja added, "I'm going to do what I normally do and
bounce back and I'm very excited for this next game."
10. Philadelphia 76ers (16-15) ⬆️ Last
Joel Embiid put Philadelphia on his back Monday night and
carried them to a 108-103 victory over the Boston Celtics. Embiid
tallied 41 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals.
The much-needed win snapped a three-game losing streak for the
11. Denver Nuggets (15-14) ⬆️ Last Week:
He seems to be running a distant third behind KD and Steph in
the MVP race according to some fans and TV pundits, but you could
make a very strong argument that Nikola Jokic is on pace to bring
home another MVP award. How valuable is he to Denver's success? The
Nuggets are 11-4 when Jokic scores 25 or more points this season.
They are 2-6 when he scores fewer than 20 points or does not play.
Over the nine games Denver has played this month, Joker is
averaging 26.4 points, 13.1 rebounds and 9.2 (!!) assists a night.
Yes, he's dishing out more dimes than Chris Paul or Trae Young.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (16-15) ⬇️ Last
Paul George returned to action on Monday night after missing the
previous five games with a sprained right elbow. PG-13 poured in 25
points, but it wasn't enough, as the Clippers were whipped by the
Spurs, 116-92. It was L.A.'s third consecutive defeat.
13. Los Angeles Lakers (16-15) ⬆️ Last
Anthony Davis sprained his left knee on Friday, and we learned
over the weekend that he'll likely miss four weeks of action. The
Lakers are just one game over .500, and that's with LeBron James
playing at a very high level and logging a ton of minutes. King
James will have to carry the team on his back for the next month to
keep L.A. afloat. We know the Lakers will be buyers at the
deadline, so it'll be interesting to see if they try to make a move
sooner rather than later.
14. Charlotte Hornets (16-17) ⬇️ Last Week:
The Hornets are in the midst of an exhausting six-game road trip
and have lost 4 of their first 5 on this current West Coast
excursion. Charlotte plays just once more this week (the final game
of the trip is Thursday in Denver) before heading home to take on
the Rockets next Monday.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-15) ⬆️ Last
The Wolves have won four in a row despite playing without
Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, and Taurean Prince. And on Monday,
Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt entered the NBA's health and
safety protocols as well. Unsurprisingly, Karl-Anthony Towns has
been doing the heavy lifting for Minny. Kat is averaging 26.8
points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 triples during this
16. Washington Wizards (16-15) ⬇️ Last
After scoring more than 30 points just twice over the first
eight weeks of the season, Bradley Beal may finally be heating up.
Over the three games the Wiz played last week, Beal averaged 31.0
points and 5.7 assists while shooting above 56% from the field and
42.9% from three-point territory.
17. Boston Celtics (15-16) ⬇️ Last Week:
The C's have yet to win consecutive games this month, but it
should be noted that they have played the league's most demanding
schedule in December. Of the 12 games on Boston's calendar from
Dec. 1 through Christmas Day, 10 of their 12 opponents have winning
records. The Celtics take on the Cavs and Bucks later this
18. Dallas Mavericks (14-15) ⬇️ Last Week:
Kristaps Porzingis has been playing well of late, but exited
Sunday's game with what the team called "right foot soreness." Luka
Doncic is dealing with left ankle soreness and will miss his fifth
straight game Tuesday vs. Minnesota.
19. Toronto Raptors (14-15) ↔️ Last Week:
Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Scottie Barnes and Precious
Achiuwa all entered the league's COVID protocols on Tuesday,
bringing the total number of Raptors in health and safety protocols
to seven. As of Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday's game vs. the Bulls
has yet to be postponed.
20. Atlanta Hawks (14-15) ⬇️ Last Week:
The Hawks haven't won consecutive games since late November and
are just 3-6 over their last nine contests. Because Sunday's game
vs. Cleveland was postponed, Atlanta will have four full days off
between their last game (a loss last Friday to Denver) and their
next matchup Wednesday vs. Orlando. However, the team announced
over the weekend that Trae Young had entered health and safety
protocols, which will likely sideline him through the Hawks'
Christmas Day showdown with the Knicks at MSG. On Tuesday, Clint
Capela and Danilo Gallinari joined Young.
21. Indiana Pacers (13-18) ↔️ Last Week:
After a very slow start to the season, it appears the Pacers are
finally headed in the right direction. Indy has won 4 of the last 6
games, and the two losses during this recent stretch were to Golden
State and Milwaukee. The team's success has coincided with an
uptick in Caris LeVert's performance. He's averaging 21.9 points
and 4.3 assists over his last seven appearances.
22. New York Knicks (13-17) ↔️ Last Week:
Like many teams, the Knicks have been hit hard by COVID-19. What
makes New York's recent run of back luck so frustrating for fans is
that the team's young players seem to be sidelined following
breakout performances. After Obi Topping scored a career-high 19
vs. the Raptors, he entered health and safety protocols the next
day. Two days after Quentin Grimes poured in a franchise-record 27
points in his first career start, he was sidelined. Miles "Deuce"
McBride stepped in and stepped up (15 points, 9 assists, zero
turnovers) last Thursday in a win over the Rockets, and was forced
into healthy protocols the following afternoon.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (13-18) ⬆️ Last
The Blazers have won two in a row after snapping a disastrous
seven-game losing skid late last week. They have another winnable
game Tuesday when they take on the New Orleans Pelicans on the
road. Dame Lillard is averaging over 30 points a night since
returning from an abdominal injury on Dec. 12.
24. Sacramento Kings (13-19) ⬆️ Last Week:
With De'Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols) sidelined,
Tyrese Haliburton has been a beast for the Kings. In the three
games Fox has missed, Haliburton is averaging 24.0 points, 10.7
assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 treys while shooting 54.7% from the
floor, 57.1% from downtown and 85.7% from the charity
25. San Antonio Spurs (12-18) ⬇️ Last Week:
Dejounte Murray remained red-hot in Monday's win over the
Clippers, tallying 24 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists and 4 steals
in 31 minutes. It was his third triple-double in five games, and
his sixth this season. Murray is averaging 17.0 points, 10.4
assists, 9.6 boards and 2.2 thefts of the Spurs past five
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (10-19) ⬆️ Last
After ripping down a career-high 18 rebounds to go along with 10
assists and 8 points against the Clippers on Saturday, Josh Giddey
put up 19 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds in Monday's victory
over the Grizzlies. Those are remarkable numbers in back-to-back
games for a 19-year-old rookie. Over OKC's last seven games, he's
averaging more than seven dimes and seven boards.
27. Houston Rockets (10-20) ⬇️ Last Week:
The Rockets have come back down to earth following their
shocking seven-game win streak, as they have lost 5 of their last
7. Jalen Green (left hamstring) has been sidelined since Nov. 24,
but coach Stephen Silas said he is hopeful Green will return by
Christmas or early next week. Kevin Porter Jr. (left thigh bruise)
is reportedly targeting a return before the end of December as
28. New Orleans Pelicans (10-21) ↔️ Last
After an awful start to the season, in which they won just 3 of
their first 19 contests, the Pels are slowly but surely making
progress and have won 3 of their last 4. Jonas Valančiūnas has
picked up his production of late, averaging 20.8 points (on 61.6%
shooting) to go along with 11.4 boards over his past five
29. Detroit Pistons (5-24) ⬆️ Last Week:
The Pistons snapped their 14-game losing streak by beating the
Heat Sunday night in the Motor City. Saddiq Bey, who scored a
team-high 26 points in the victory over Miami, finally broke out of
a nasty shooting slump last week. Bey, who was shooting below 35%
from the floor and below 30% from downtown over the Pistons' first
25 games this season, averaged 25.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3
assists and 3.0 made treys while shooting 54.3% from the floor,
42.9% from behind the arc, and 94.7% from the free-throw stripe
over his last three.
30. Orlando Magic (6-25) ⬇️ Last Week:
Franz Wagner, the eighth overall pick in the 2021 draft, isn't
drawing much national attention, but he has been fantastic for the
Magic this month. Over Orlando's last 10 games, Wagner is averaging
18.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.2 steals per