NBA Power Rankings: Who starts 2020 at the top of the heap?
BOSTON — A new decade is officially upon us, but this NBA season is looking a lot like those of the past 10 years.
LeBron James is playing for one of the league’s best teams. James Harden is racking up video game-like numbers and his team is still coming up short of being elite. There’s an International sensation taking the world by storm in Dallas.
That consistency exists in our Power Rankings as well, with very little movement near the front of the pack.
But hey, it’s a new year and a new decade where stars can come from anywhere in the NBA … like Milwaukee.
With that said, here are NBC Sports Boston’s latest NBA Power Rankings.
(Games played through Jan. 1)
30. Atlanta Hawks (7-27)
Rank last week: 30
Buy or sell at the trade deadline? This season is looking more and more like a lost cause for Atlanta, so stacking up more assets going forward would make a lot of sense.
29. Sacramento Kings (12-22)
Rank last week: 18
Our biggest tumbler of the week, the Kings hit a weak stretch of games and like we’ve seen most of this season, did not make the most of their opportunity to rack up a few wins as their losing skid stands at eight … and counting.
28. Golden State Warriors (9-26)
Rank last week: 26
Loved Steve Kerr’s comments about the NBA being a “copycat league.” That used to be the case with the Warriors. This season? Not so much.
27. Washington Wizards (10-23)
Rank last week: 25
The numbers are All-Star worthy for Bradley Beal, but with so many losses and other deserving good players on bad teams (Trae Young and Zach LaVine for example), coaches may take a pass on Beal as an All-Star this year.
26. New York Knicks (10-24)
Rank last week: 29
The Knicks are riding a three-game winning streak, fueled by a defense that has been tops in the NBA (90.5 defensive rating) during that span.
25. New Orleans Pelicans (11-23)
Rank last week: 27
The Pelicans are finally starting to play more competitive basketball, something that should have been happening with or without Zion Williamson in the lineup.
24. Detroit Pistons (12-22)
Rank last week: 23
The Pistons are a team desperately in search of an identity. Are they a playoff contender, or bound for the NBA lottery? Hard to say based on their up-and-down play this season.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-21)
Rank last week: 28
One of the more perplexing teams, this team keeps true to the perpetual “they should be better than this” mantra that has dogged this franchise for most of Karl-Anthony Towns’ time there.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-23)
Rank last week: 24
Kevin Love remains the most tradeable asset in the NBA. Look for more playoff contenders to emerge in the coming weeks that are willing to take on the 32-year-old’s hefty contract.
21. Phoenix Suns (13-21)
Rank last week: 22
All the losing has masked Kelly Oubre Jr.’s breakout season where he’s averaging career highs in scoring (18.0), rebounds (6.0) and assists (1.7).
20. Portland Trail Blazers (14-21)
Rank last week: 17
New team, it doesn’t matter. Winning at Madison Square Garden just isn’t in the cards for Carmelo Anthony.
19. Charlotte Hornets (13-23)
Rank last week: 20
Devonte’ Graham is still adjusting to the “Kemba Walker” treatment from defenses, which have limited him to just 33 percent shooting in December.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (13-21)
Rank last week: 21
Ja Morant has been looking to be more of a playmaker than scorer lately. He has shot less than his season average in field goal attempts (13.9) the last three games, while racking up 18 assists to only six turnovers.
17. San Antonio Spurs (14-18)
Rank last week: 16
From dominant to dormant, the Spurs ushered in a new decade looking nothing like the perennial power we saw through most of the 2010s.
16. Brooklyn Nets (16-16)
Rank last week: 14
Lack of scoring punch at the root of Brooklyn’s three-game skid. In the last three games, the Nets offensive rating has been just 91.9 which ranks 29th in the league during that period of time.
15. Chicago Bulls (13-21)
Rank last week: 19
The Bulls continue to sniff around at one of the last playoff spots in the East, getting it done in part by a defense that’s forcing a league-high 18.4 turnovers per game.
14. Orlando Magic (15-19)
Rank last week: 15
Markelle Fultz isn’t likely to live up to the lofty expectations that come with being a top overall pick, but he has proven himself to be a legit NBA player.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (18-15)
Rank last week: 13
The Western Conference continues to be stacked with talent, but that won’t keep Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s play from entering the All-Star conversation, especially if the Thunder keep racking up the wins like they did last week.
11. Houston Rockets (23-11)
Rank last week: 11
The Rockets are the only team in the bottom-10 in points allowed that also has a winning record. And Houston wonders why folks give them the side-eye when there’s talk about them making a deep playoff run.
10. Indiana Pacers (22-12)
Rank last week: 8
Pacers fans are hoping All-Star hopeful Malcolm Brogdon’s back injury is a short-term issue that won’t linger.
9. Toronto Raptors (23-11)
Rank last week: 10
The Raptors have been getting by (barely) with Pascal Siakam still out, posting a 4-3 record in his absence.
8. Dallas Mavericks (21-12)
Rank last week: 9
In the post. Outside the 3-point line. It doesn’t matter. Kristaps Porzingis is a matchup nightmare whose play has been one of the keys to Dallas’ revival this season.
7. Utah Jazz (21-12)
Rank last week: 12
Jordan Clarkson has been exactly what the Jazz were looking for, providing a much-needed offensive punch off the bench that has helped Utah extend its winning streak to six in a row.
6. Miami Heat (24-9)
Rank last week: 6
We know Ja Morant is the runaway leader for rookie of the year, but Tyler Herro has been impressive as well in terms of his production (13.7 points per game) and most importantly, his impact on winning games.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (24-11)
Rank last week: 1
A bad home loss to Utah coupled with Patrick Beverley’s wrist injury, drops the Clippers down a few pegs in this week’s Power Rankings.
4. Boston Celtics (23-8)
Rank last week: 3
Jaylen Brown’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week award only adds to the breakout season he and the Celtics are enjoying.
3. Denver Nuggets (23-10)
Rank last week: 7
With wins in nine of their last 11 games, you get the feeling that the Nuggets are starting to figure out how to navigate this front-of-the-pack status they have this season.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (27-7)
Rank last week: 4
After dropping four straight, the Lakers have bounced back with three straight wins and more to come with home games against New Orleans, New York and Detroit coming up next.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (31-5)
Rank last week: 2
Eric Bledsoe’s back in the mix, Giannis is still doing Giannis-like things and the Bucks continue to dominate any and all comers.