Warriors

NBA Power Rankings: Warriors still No. 1 as Klay's return nears

Warriors
Steph Curry

New year, new ... nope, everything else is pretty much the same.

In the NBA, that means teams are still being ravaged by COVID-19 and health and safety protocols, the same teams are struggling, and there is a group of teams that are head and shoulders above the rest.

There is still plenty of time for things to change, and some teams are on surprising runs, but for the most part, the hierarchy of teams around the league is unchanged.

RELATED: Warriors rule Klay out for game vs. Heat

Here is where everyone stacks up in the first Power Rankings of 2022:

30. Detroit Pistons (6-28): Saddiq Bay gave the Pistons a bright start to the new year, but other than his game-winning heroics against the Spurs, it's still looking bleak in Detroit.

29. Orlando Magic (7-29): The losses keep piling up for the Magic, but players such as Franz Wagner, Cole Anthony and Wendell Carter Jr. are serving as bright spots. Maybe they'll break through later in the calendar year.

28. Houston Rockets (10-27): Houston has a problem. As locker room drama spilled onto the court, the doesn't seem to be a relief in sight for the Rockets and their woes.

27. Oklahoma City Thunder (13-23): On Sunday, Josh Giddey became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, flashing the potential of Oklahoma City's young guns. But don't expect anything small-picture to change.

26. Sacramento Kings (16-22): On New Year's Eve, Alvin Gentry said if anyone needed him he'd be at home drinking. But not to ring in 2022, but to help get over the Kings' loss to a depleted Dallas team. And that came just days after Gentry claimed Sacramento's loss to Memphis was the most disappointed he has been in his 34 years in the NBA.

 

25. New York Knicks (17-20): The Knicks are desperately missing Julius Randle -- as exhibited in their back-to-back blowout losses.

24. New Orleans Pelicans (13-23): The Pelicans have quietly won six of their last nine games. Yeah, most of them have been against lower-tier teams, but they show glimpses of the good things happening on that roster.

23. Indiana Pacers (14-23): At a certain point, we have to acknowledge that only two teams are behind the Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings. There is solid individual talent on this team, but it's not coming together.

22 Portland Trail Blazers (12-22): Dame Lillard has looked much better since coming back from his abdominal injury, averaging 31 points over those eight games, but Portland is still struggling as a whole.

21. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-20): The Timberwolves finally got Anthony Edwards back on Sunday, which is the first step in getting their roster back to full health. But will he be able to turn the ship around alone?

20. San Antonio Spurs (14-21): It was a rough week for San Antonio, but that can mostly be chalked up to them being without Dejounte Murray. Once Murray returns, the Spurs' chances at a play-in spot need to be taken seriously.

19. Atlanta Hawks (16-19): The good news is that the Hawks' list of players in health and safety protocol is dwindling. But just as players were exiting, head coach Nat McMillan entered protocols. So, what can Atlanta do with more players but without their coach?

18. Los Angeles Lakers (19-19): The Lakers have lost six of their last eight games despite LeBron James averaging 32.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.0 made threes, 1.6 blocks and 1.6 steals. It's time to face the music: the Lakers' roster construction isn't working.

17. Dallas Mavericks (18-18): Luka Doncic finally returned after a 10-game absence and he picked up right where he left off. The Mavericks managed to win all of their games without Doncic, and now that he's back, they'll be able to build on that momentum.

16. Toronto Raptors (16-17): Sunday's win over the Knicks marked the first time the Raptors had all of their eight-best players available this season. We saw a glimpse of what this team can do together, but their overall potential is still a mystery.

15. Boston Celtics (18-19): The Celtics split the week and got a win over the Suns, but they lost to the Timberwolves without Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russel and Jarred Vanderbilt and to the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

14. Los Angeles Clippers (19-18): The win over the Brooklyn Nets was the Clippers' biggest of the year as they continue to tread water with no Paul George, no Kawhi Leonard and a depleted roster.

 

13. Washington Wizards (18-18): Well, some positive news is that Bradley Beal got vaccinated for COVID-19. With Washington D.C. implementing a citywide vaccine mandate, he'll now be able to play in all home games. But besides that, things aren't going very well in the capital.

12. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-16): The loss of Ricky Rubio to an ACL tear was a brutal halt to the nice run the Cavs have been on as of late. They traded for Rajon Rondo as a quick pivot move, but that's not going to fill the void left by Rubio's injury. .

11. Charlotte Hornets (19-17): Miles Bridges was the latest big-named Hornet to enter health and safety protocols, but the Hornets kept on chugging without him, mainly thanks to its second-ranked offense that's fueled by quick pace, shooting efficiency and low turnover rate.

10. Denver Nuggets (18-16): The length of Denver's injury report is astounding, leading to the league postponing one of their games because they couldn't produce the minimum eight players necessary. Still, they managed to squeak in two solid wins.

9. Philadelphia 76ers (19-16): Joel Embiid is back to playing at an MVP level. And as long as that's the case, the 76ers will be tough to beat.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (23-14): The Grizzlies are riding a four-game winning streak and Ja Morant has scored at least 30 points in three of the games, including 41 points against the Lakers. If the Grizzlies can combine Morant's lethal offense with the level of defense they played without him, they'll be a real threat.

7. Miami Heat (23-13): The Heat's roster is hanging by a threat due to COVID protocols, but Miami is still hanging around.

6. Chicago Bulls (24-10): Adding DeMar DeRozan is looking like the best offseason move as he hit two consecutive incredibly difficult game-winning threes this last week And as the Bulls start to get players back from health and safety protocols, Chicago should just keep rolling.

5. Brooklyn Nets (23-11): The Nets ended last week on a sour note, dropping two games in a row including one to the depleted Clippers. Steve Nash and Kevin Durant both agreed that Brooklyn played with no effort. Right now, the Nets aren't a team that can go into games with that mindset and expect to win.

4. Utah Jazz (26-10): The Jazz dropped just one game last week -- a loss to the Warriors that still highlighted plenty of bright spots for Utah. However, it also showed how far the Jazz have to go to combat the other top teams when the playoffs arrive.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (25-13): The Bucks are almost back to full strength, and it's showing. They are playing awfully similar to how they did when they won the 2021 NBA championship. So, look out.

2. Phoenix Suns (27-8): Devin Booker has been rolling in his first six games back from a hamstring injury, and Chris Paul has been terrific. If they can maintain this level of production as DeAndre Ayton exits health and safety protocols, we'll get a glimpse at one of the teams favored to be in the Western Conference finals.

 

1. Golden State Warriors (28-7): As for the other team that's a Western Conference finals favorite, the Warriors put together a decent week. Their loss to the Nuggets was a grind, but they rebounded by putting together a win at Utah without Draymond Green. That's two wins against the other top two teams in the West on the road in one week. Oh, and Klay Thompson will be back any day now.

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