The Raptors continue to roll, the Celtics are starting to figure things out and the Sixers may need to make a move to keep pace.
Here’s the latest edition of our NBA Eastern Conference power rankings.
1. Raptors (21-5) Last week: 1
The Raptors just continue to roll, winning nine out of their last 10 and with Kawhi Leonard looking a legit MVP candidate. This spot appears safe for the foreseeable future.
2. Bucks (16-7) Last week: 2
The Bucks have come down to earth a little bit, but Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the early favorite for the MVP award. Unlike Toronto, Milwaukee’s standing is far from safe.
3. Sixers (17-9) Last week: 3
Speaking of MVP candidates, Joel Embiid’s “rest” game Friday night appears needed. He’s really struggled in his last three games and looked gassed vs. the Raptors. He’s playing a ton of minutes at an extremely high level so it’s not a surprise. The bigger concern is the Sixers’ bench, which lacks scoring and athleticism.
4. Celtics (14-10) Last week: 4
The Celtics are starting to get their act together, which is bad news for the Sixers and the rest of the East. The insertion of Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris to the starting lineup has given Boston a boost. Gordon Hayward also looks to be regaining his form off the bench.
5. Pistons (13-9) Last week: 7
The Pistons won five straight before losing their last two. With Detroit, it seems like they take care of business against bad teams but struggle to compete with the NBA’s elite. Outside of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, the Pistons haven’t gotten much out of the rest of the team.
6. Pacers (14-10) Last week: 5
With Victor Oladipo, the Pacers are ahead of the Pistons. With Oladipo out indefinitely, it’s hard to do to put Indiana ahead of Detroit. It’s going to be a tough stretch.
7. Hornets (11-13) Last week: 6
Despite the Herculean efforts of Kemba Walker, the Hornets have dropped five of their last seven and are barely hanging on to the East’s last playoff spot. There’s a good chance they fall out of it by our next power rankings.
8. Magic (12-13) Last week: 8
Nikola Vucevic should be an All-Star this season and he’s basically single-handedly keeping the Magic around .500.
9. Wizards (11-14) Last week: 9
The Wizards have actually won five of their last seven. Maybe they won’t blow things up as they sit just outside the eighth seed.
10. Heat (9-14) Last week: 11
Josh Richardson has been excellent but hasn’t gotten much help. Miami has been largely disappointing.
11. Nets (8-18) Last week: 10
The Nets are free falling with eight straight losses. Spencer Dinwiddie could be a good fit for the Sixers if Brooklyn doesn’t consider an extension.
12. Knicks (8-18) Last week: 12
The Knicks have lost four of their last five after a decent stretch. They do have some dynamic, young pieces in rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier.
13. Bulls (5-20) Last week: 13
The Bulls have lost seven straight but they’re rolling Lauri Markkanen back into their lineup. With Markkanen, Zach LaVine and rookie Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago does have an intriguing, young trio.
14. Cavs (5-19) Last week: 15
Rookie Collin Sexton is still looking for consistency but has shown flashes of being a legit scoring point guard.
15. Hawks (5-20) Last week: 14
Trae Young could still develop into a star, but Luka Doncic has looked sensational so far this season, making you wonder about that draft night trade.
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