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NBA Power Rankings: Suns eclipse Warriors for the top spot

NBA Power Rankings: Suns eclipse Warriors for the top spot

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: 2

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 Week: 1

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: 3

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 attempts. 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-12) ⬆️ Last Week: 8

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.

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6. Milwaukee Bucks (19-13) ⬇️ Last Week: 5

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 action. 

7. Chicago Bulls (19-10) ⬇️ Last Week: 6

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: 9

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: 7

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 Week: 11

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 Sixers. 

11. Denver Nuggets (15-14) ⬆️ Last Week: 16

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. Crazy. 

12. Los Angeles Clippers (16-15) ⬇️ Last Week: 10

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 Week: 14

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: 12

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 Week: 20

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 four-game streak. 

16. Washington Wizards (16-15) ⬇️ Last Week: 13

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: 15

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 week. 

18. Dallas Mavericks (14-15) ⬇️ Last Week: 17

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: 19

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: 18

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: 21

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: 22

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 Week: 24

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: 26

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 stripe. 

25. San Antonio Spurs (12-18) ⬇️ Last Week: 23

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 contests.

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26. Oklahoma City Thunder (10-19) ⬆️ Last Week: 27

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: 25

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 well. 

28. New Orleans Pelicans (10-21) ↔️ Last Week: 28

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 contests.

29. Detroit Pistons (5-24) ⬆️ Last Week: 30

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: 29

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 contest.

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