NBA Power Rankings: How do teams stack up after Christmas?
NBA fans were treated to some cold-blooded performances on Christmas Day, ranging from Boston’s Jaylen Brown dropping 30 points in Boston’s road win over the Toronto Raptors, or Philly’s Joel Embiid filling up the stat sheet in the Sixers’ surprisingly easy win over Milwaukee.
The select few teams that played on Christmas delivered performances that were indeed factors in this week’s Power Rankings, and also served as a reminder of some of the hidden gems in the NBA this season who will be vying for All-Star consideration with voting for fans beginning on Christmas Day. For players like Embiid, James Harden, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard, playing on Christmas is just another big stage for them to do big things on that will be part of their All-Star résumé this season.
But for the likes of Brown, one of the more promising two-way players in the NBA under the age of 25, coming up with big shots and big plays at both ends of the floor on Christmas Day provided the perfect launching pad for what he hopes will be his first All-Star selection. And as you look at this week’s Power Rankings, it should come as no surprise that some of the biggest movers and shakers are being carried not only by their established stars but also youngsters on the rise.
With that said, here are NBC Sports Boston’s latest NBA Power Rankings.
30. Atlanta Hawks (6-25)
Rank last week: 30
Even with John Collins back after serving a 25-game suspension, it’s looking more and more like the hole the Hawks dug for themselves to start the season will be too deep for them to climb out of.
29. New York Knicks (7-24)
Rank last week: 26
Christmas Day games and no Knicks? Yup. The Knicks are slowly but surely slipping deeper and deeper into this place we know as basketball irrelevance.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (10-19)
Rank last week: 24
The Timberpups are doing Timberpup-like things, losing to anyone and everyone — at least for the last 13 games — on the docket.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (9-23)
Rank last week: 28
Is Zion coming back this season or not? Really, that’s the only thing of great significance Pelicans fans care about right now.
26. Golden State Warriors (8-24)
Rank last week: 29
Remember when the Golden State Warriors would win three in a row and it wasn’t a big deal? They’ve won their last three and it’s damn near a bottle-poppin’ time considering how rough this season has been for them.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-21)
Rank last week: 27
Trading Jordan Clarkson for Dante Exum and getting a couple of second-round picks out of the deal as well continues the youth movement going on now with the Cavs.
23. Detroit Pistons (11-20)
Rank last week: 19
The injuries continue to pile up for the Pistons. And the losses? Yup, they’re collecting a bunch of those as well.
22. Phoenix Suns (11-19)
Rank last week: 21
The Suns’ slide continues and now stands at seven straight losses.
21. Memphis Grizzlies (11-20)
Rank last week: 20
The wins continue to be hard to come by for the Grizzlies, but this team is fun to watch, which you can’t always say about clubs that lose as consistently as they do.
20. Charlotte Hornets (13-20)
Rank last week: 18
Terry Rozier is looking more like the big-time talent the Hornets thought they were getting, as Rozier has scored 29 or more points in two of Charlotte’s last three games.
19. Chicago Bulls (12-20)
Rank last week: 22
The Bulls are well-positioned to be one of the benefactors of a top-heavy Eastern Conference, one in which they are eight games below .500 but only two games out of the eighth and final playoff slot.
18. Sacramento Kings (12-18)
Rank last week: 15
With Minnesota and Phoenix coming to Sac-Town this week, the Kings should be able to get into a little rhythm and get back on that playoff-like track we saw from them earlier this season.
17. Portland Trail Blazers (14-17)
Rank last week: 17
Won three of their last four — all at home — fueled by their defense, which ranked among the league’s top-5 in defensive rating during the four-game span compared to being 18th overall this season.
16. San Antonio Spurs (12-17)
Rank last week: 23
The Spurs are doing a better job of getting off to good starts, averaging a league-best 34.7 points in the first quarter in the last three games.
15. Orlando Magic (13-17)
Rank last week: 16
Points continue to be hard to come by for the Magic, currently ranked 29th in the NBA in points per game (103.5).
14. Brooklyn Nets (16-13)
Rank last week: 13
You can add Kenny Atkinson to the growing list of coaches deserving of some Coach of the Year consideration when you look at the job he has done this season to keep the Nets competitive despite being without a handful of key starters/rotation players, including ex-Celtic Kyrie Irving.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-14)
Rank last week: 14
The offense has been clicking of late for the Thunder, winners of four in a row while registering a league-best 118.6 offensive rating within that span.
12. Utah Jazz (18-12)
Rank last week: 12
The second quarter continues to be problematic for the Jazz, whose average of 25.7 points scored in the quarter ranks 29th in the league.
11. Houston Rockets (21-10)
Rank last week: 11
Losing to a depleted Golden State squad on Christmas serves as yet another reminder of how the Rockets, while immensely talented, are more than capable of pulling an inexplicable disappearing act against any foe — even one as bad as the Warriors.
10. Toronto Raptors (21-10)
Rank last week: 6
The Raptors are down some key guys like Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol. But even at full strength, they have had their struggles keeping folks off the offensive glass while giving up a league-high 12.5 offensive boards per game this season.
9. Dallas Mavericks (19-10)
Rank last week: 4
No surprise the Mavericks’ high-powered offense has taken a noticeable nose-dive in the four games without Luka Doncic, going from the league’s best to No. 13 in the last four games.
8. Indiana Pacers (21-10)
Rank last week: 9
A more efficient Myles Turner has emerged in the last four games in which he has shot better than 50 percent from the field in all four games while averaging 17.0 points per game on 60.5 percent shooting.
7. Denver Nuggets (21-9)
Rank last week: 8
The Christmas Day loss to New Orleans withstanding, the Nuggets are playing their best basketball of late and look very much like one of the upper-tier teams in the West this season.
6. Miami Heat (22-8)
Rank last week: 7
With Miami’s next two games at home against Indiana and Philly, these games … we’ll call them a Heat check for where they stand among the top-tier teams in the East.
5. Philadelphia 76ers (23-10)
Rank last week: 10
Joel Embiid claims he wants to add Defensive Player of the Year to his trophy case. Playing the way he did on Christmas against Milwaukee can only help his cause.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (24-7)
Rank last week: 2
Four straight losses have exposed the biggest concern with this Lakers team: a lack of impact/support from the supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
3. Boston Celtics (21-7)
Rank last week: 5
With four straight double-digit rebounding performances in 24 minutes or less in each game — and by the way, all led to Celtics wins — Enes Kanter is gaining some momentum to be a candidate for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
2. Milwaukee Bucks (27-5)
Rank last week: 1
Giannis Antetokounmpo missed more shots on Christmas Day (19) than he has in a single game, ever. Even with the defeat, the Bucks remain the team to beat coming out of the East.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (23-10)
Rank last week: 3
The Clippers not only have two of the league’s best players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But they also feature one of its toughest in Patrick Beverley who should be a virtual lock at this point for a spot on the All-NBA Defensive First Team.