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NBA Power Rankings: Jazz top the charts, KD wins in the Bay Area


Not much can stop the Utah Jazz right now. The owners of the best record in the NBA have won 18 of their past 19 games heading into Monday’s heavyweight showdown with the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers.

Speaking of the East, the Boston Celtics continue to slide both in the standings and on our list. A 1-3 week — and seven losses in the past 10 games — drops Boston to .500 and fifth in the conference.

Where do all 30 teams stand now? Let’s dive into our Week 9 rankings.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin, Eric Woodyard, Royce Young and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8

1. Utah Jazz
2020-21 record: 22-5
Previous ranking: 2

The Jazz have 16 double-digit wins during their 18-1 run, joining the 1970-71 Bucks and 2008-09 Cavaliers as the only teams to record so many 10-plus-point victories over a 19-game span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. An underrated piece of Utah’s success: forward Royce O’Neale, who was the primary defender on Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler in the Jazz’s three convincing wins this week. “He’s All-Defensive Team. That’s where he should be at the end of the season, if he keeps it going,” two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert said. — MacMahon

This week: PHI, @LAC, @LAC


2. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 record: 21-7
Previous ranking: 1

The Lakers’ seven-game win streak was starting to feel a little flimsy, as they needed three straight overtime victories (one against Detroit, two against Oklahoma City) and then a 20-point comeback against Memphis to keep it going. Sure enough, it was snapped Sunday in Denver. What really matters for this team is what an MRI on Anthony Davis‘ strained right Achilles tendon will show Monday. — McMenamin

This week: @MIN, BKN, MIA


3. LA Clippers
2020-21 record: 20-8
Previous ranking: 3

Just as Patrick Beverley was getting comfortable back from injury, Kawhi Leonard sat out Sunday’s game with a lower left leg contusion. He joined Paul George (swollen toe) on the sideline as they cheered on the Clippers to their third straight victory. It remains to be seen when Leonard and George will return. But considering the Clippers play the second of a back-to-back on Monday (part of a stretch of five games over eight days), they might play it safe with their two stars. Even with the disruptions to the lineup, the Clippers have won 14 of their past 18 games. — Youngmisuk

This week: MIA, UTA, UTA, BRK


4. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 record: 18-9
Previous ranking: 4

The era of good feelings is over in the City of Brotherly Love after Philadelphia dropped back-to-back games against elite Western Conference competition. Things won’t get any easier Monday, when the Sixers end their road trip at Utah against the NBA-best Jazz. It should be an epic showdown between Joel Embiid, one of the front-runners for this season’s MVP award, and Rudy Gobert, who is well on his way to yet another NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. — Bontemps

This week: @UTA, HOU, CHI, @TOR


5. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 record: 17-9
Previous ranking: 7

The Suns have won nine of their past 10 games and are on a six-game winning streak after Sunday’s win over the Magic. The current run is tied for their second-longest such streak in the past 10 seasons, behind only last season’s 8-0 bubble performance. Devin Booker has been on fire the past four games, averaging 32.3 points while shooting 56.3% overall. He had three consecutive games of at least 30 points for the first time this season and started Sunday’s game outscoring Orlando by himself in the first quarter (17-16) before finishing with 27. — Lopez

This week: BRK, @NOP, @MEM


6. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 record: 16-11
Previous ranking: 5

Giannis Antetokounmpo hates losing, but he also sees the bigger picture. Following Friday’s loss to Utah, he said his goal is to “play the best basketball at the end.” His focus has shifted this season from finishing with the league’s best record to being at his best when it matters. “That’s my mindset,” he explained in Salt Lake City. “I want to improve each game.” In the present, the Bucks have lost three straight, as Jrue Holiday remains out of the lineup because of the league’s health and safety protocols. — Woodyard

This week: TOR, TOR, OKC, SAC


7. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 record: 16-12
Previous ranking: 6

Kevin Durant was back — again — from health and safety protocols, and maybe now the Nets can begin to establish an identity and carve out their place among the East’s elite teams. It has been rocky since they traded for James Harden, with Kyrie Irving‘s personal absence and then Durant missing a week; but as the trio plays more together, the chemistry appears to build. Irving unreluctantly turned over point guard duties to Harden as roles define themselves. It looked like the Nets were finally primed to go on a roll and … Durant is out at least two games with a mild hamstring strain. Welp. — Young

This week: @SAC, @PHX, @LAL, @LAC


8. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 record: 15-11
Previous ranking: 8

The Nuggets started last week with their third straight loss, to Milwaukee. But Michael Malone has the Nuggets back on track with a three-game winning streak that includes their biggest win of the season, over the Lakers. Nikola Jokic continues his MVP campaign as he collected his sixth triple-double of the season Sunday night. Health, though, is a major key for the Nuggets, who were already without Gary Harris and then lost Paul Millsap to a left knee sprain against the Lakers. — Youngmisuk

This week: @BOS, @WAS, @CHA, @ATL


9. Portland Trail Blazers
2020-21 record: 16-10
Previous ranking: 12

It was Dame Time in Big D, with Damian Lillard serving up one dagger missile after another to finish off the Mavericks on Sunday. Quietly, the Blazers have won four straight and six of their past seven and are settling into the top six of the West. With all the attrition the Blazers have battled already this season — injuries to Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum and Zach Collins — to be in the upper half of the West is an accomplishment. And it begs the question: At fourth in the league in scoring, ninth in assists and maybe first in leadership, shouldn’t Dame be in the MVP conversation by now? — Young

This week: @OKC, @NOP, WAS


10. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 record: 16-11
Previous ranking: 10

With LaMarcus Aldridge missing time due to a hip injury, San Antonio has found a new starting lineup that is paying dividends. The Spurs improved to 4-0 this season when they start Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. That group has already played the fifth-most minutes of any Spurs five-man lineup this season and carries a net rating of plus-18.4. By comparison, the Spurs’ most frequently used lineup this season — replacing Aldridge for Poeltl and Lonnie Walker IV for White — has a minus-12.5 net rating in 216 minutes. — Lopez

This week: @DET, @CLE, @NYK


11. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 record: 14-13
Previous ranking: 11

After four consecutive losses, Indiana bounced back with two much-needed road wins against Detroit and Atlanta on Thursday and Sunday. In his past 10 games, Domantas Sabonis is putting up 21.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists while shooting 52.1% from the field. — Woodyard

This week: CHI, @MIN, @HOU


12. Boston Celtics
2020-21 record: 13-13
Previous ranking: 9

Things are blue in Boston, as the Celtics have dropped four of their past five games — including losses to Detroit at home on Friday and at Washington on Sunday. Those two games highlighted the season-long issues Boston has had generating offense beyond their stars. Players not named Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Kemba Walker combined to shoot 25-for-76 (32.9%) overall and 7-for-36 (19.4%) from 3-point range in those two losses, reigniting the talk about whether Boston will bolster its bench before next month’s trade deadline. — Bontemps

This week: DEN, ATL, ATL, @NOP


13. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 record: 14-13
Previous ranking: 13

Kevin Durant shared some hugs and handshakes with his former teammates and coaches in a happy reunion in the San Francisco Bay Area — especially for the victorious Nets. A split against the Spurs and a win over an injury-riddled Magic squad brought the Warriors back to a familiar sight: a 2-2 record on the week. The good news for the Warriors is that aside from Saturday’s clunker, Stephen Curry continues to play some of the best basketball of his career. — Friedell

This week: CLE, MIA, @ORL, @CHA


14. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 record: 13-15
Previous ranking: 21

Luka Doncic scored 90 points over the weekend, the most in Mavs history over a two-game span. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only players younger than Doncic to have back-to-back 40-point games are LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Allen Iverson. Doncic has averaged 34.3 points with .503/.444/.849 shooting splits and 9.6 assists while the Mavs won five of their past seven games. A major concern, though: Dallas has allowed a league-worst 125.4 points per 100 possessions during that stretch. — MacMahon

This week: DET, @HOU


15. New York Knicks
2020-21 record: 13-15
Previous ranking: 19

Quietly, the Knicks just keep winning. Victories over the Wizards and Rockets this weekend have the Knicks up to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings, and the young guys continue to get minutes under coach Tom Thibodeau. The loss of Mitchell Robinson, who fractured his right hand on Friday against Washington and will miss several weeks, obviously hurts; but it also could open up an opportunity for rookie Obi Toppin to begin expanding his role off the bench. — Bontemps

This week: ATL, @ORL, SAS, MIN


16. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 record: 13-15
Previous ranking: 22

LaMelo Ball is quickly becoming one of the most interesting stories in the league. The rookie guard had another huge week, averaging 19.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists over his past four contests. Terry Rozier had 41 points in Friday’s win over the Timberwolves. The Hornets are still searching for more consistency, like so many other teams in the league, but their offense — led by Rozier, Ball and veteran Gordon Hayward — appears to be coming together. — Friedell

This week: CHI, DEN, GSW


17. Toronto Raptors
2020-21 record: 12-15
Previous ranking: 18

Every time it feels like the Raptors are ready to take a step forward, they take at least one back. Look no further than losing at home to the lowly Timberwolves — playing without D’Angelo Russell — on Sunday night. It’s obviously a bizarre season for the Raptors, given they are playing the entire campaign away from home; but at some point, the old version of this team has to show up on a regular basis … right? — Bontemps

This week: @MIL, @MIL, @MIN, PHI


18. Sacramento Kings
2020-21 record: 12-14
Previous ranking: 16

After falling apart in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia — a disappointing yet understandable result against one of the league’s best teams — the Kings had two clunkers in losses to Orlando and Memphis to complete their 0-3 week. But hey, Tyrese Haliburton was good, even in the losses. So fear not, Kings fans. All is not lost. — McMenamin

This week: BRK, MIA, @CHI, @MIL


19. Miami Heat
2020-21 record: 11-15
Previous ranking: 24

Miami is finally starting to climb out of the early-season hole that injuries and COVID-19 protocols helped create. The Heat have won four of their past five, including Thursday’s decision over the Rockets during which Jimmy Butler racked up a triple-double. They’ve still got five games left on a long West Coast swing, but the defense that defined some of their best stretches last season appears to be showing up. Since giving up 129 points to the Hornets in a Feb. 1 overtime loss, the Heat are yielding just 100.5 a game over their past six contests. — Friedell

This week: @LAC, @GSW, @SAC, @LAL


20. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 record: 11-11
Previous ranking: 17

Big man Jonas Valanciunas has come back strong after being sidelined for a few weeks due to health and safety protocols. He has averaged 21.8 points and 12.6 rebounds in five games since his return, shooting 68.3% from the floor during that span. Point guard Ja Morant has fed Valanciunas for 12 buckets over those five games and has three straight double-doubles for the first time in his career. — MacMahon

This week: NOP, OKC, DET, PHX


21. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 record: 11-15
Previous ranking: 15

The Hawks made a big splash in free agency this summer, but injuries have prevented those players from helping the cause: Danilo Gallinari (14 games, 40.8% shooting), Rajon Rondo (14 games, 3.4 points, 3.9 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 34.5% shooting), Bogdan Bogdanovic (nine games, 9.9 points, 38.5% shooting and hasn’t played since Jan. 9) and Kris Dunn (has not played this season because of an ankle injury) have not made the impact Atlanta hoped for when bringing them aboard in the offseason. — Lopez

This week: @NYK, @BOS, @BOS, DEN


22. New Orleans Pelicans
2020-21 record: 11-15
Previous ranking: 20

After a four-game winning streak made it seem like the Pelicans had figured things out, the defense took steps backward over their most recent three losses. New Orleans gave up 25 3-pointers to Chicago, 25 to Dallas and 17 to Detroit. The 67 3-pointers yielded in that span are the most ever given up over a three-game period in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Pelicans are now 29th in the league in defensive rating — and over the past three games, that stat is a mind-blowing 136.7. — Lopez

This week: @MEM, POR, PHX, BOS


23. Houston Rockets
2020-21 record: 11-15
Previous ranking: 14

After a run of seven wins in eight games, the Rockets have lost five in a row since Christian Wood went down with a sprained right ankle. Houston is averaging only 98.8 points during the skid, which includes three blowouts by more than 20 points. “Right now, we’re at the lowest point we’ve been all season. We have nowhere to go but up.” DeMarcus Cousins said. — MacMahon

This week: @WAS, @PHI, DAL, IND


24. Oklahoma City Thunder
2020-21 record: 11-15
Previous ranking: 25

It’s unlikely Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will get much All-Star consideration, but his season is certainly worthy. He is averaging 22.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists, while hitting 50.6% from the field and 38.2% from 3. For some context, three other third-year players in the past 20 seasons have posted at least 22 points per game on 50% shooting: Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis. And if you’re wondering, those three all made the All-Star Game that season. — Young

This week: POR, @MEM, @MIL, @CLE


25. Chicago Bulls
2020-21 record: 10-15
Previous ranking: 26

Although the Bulls went 1-2 for the week, Zach LaVine continues to strengthen his case as an All-Star. During Wednesday’s 129-116 win over New Orleans, LaVine put up a season-high 46 points with nine 3-pointers. (Chicago also hit a franchise-record 25 3-pointers on the night.) During that same game, LaVine and teammate Coby White (eight 3-pointers) became the first duo in NBA history to make at least eight 3s apiece in the same game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. — Woodyard

This week: @IND, @CHA, @PHI, SAC


26. Orlando Magic
2020-21 record: 10-18
Previous ranking: 27

Steve Clifford’s team has a variety of injury issues, as evidenced by only having eight healthy players during a blowout loss to the Suns on Sunday night. The only good news came on Friday night, as Nikola Vucevic dropped 42 points in a surprise win over the Kings. At 10-18, the Magic might need a reset during the All-Star break more than any team in the league. — Friedell

This week: NYK, GSW, DET


27. Cleveland Cavaliers
2020-21 record: 10-18
Previous ranking: 23

The Cavs are on a free fall after an 0-4 week dropped their record to 1-9 in their past 10 games. The nadir came with a 133-95 loss in Denver when they were doubled up in the first quarter, 34-17, after starting two centers in Andre Drummond and Jarrett Allen. They play Golden State on Monday, another reminder of how tough things are right now after those four straight Finals trips not too long ago. — McMenamin

This week: @GSW, SAS, OKC


28. Detroit Pistons
2020-21 record: 8-19
Previous ranking: 30

The Pistons might have the second-worst record in the East, but they are certainly competing. Last Saturday, they lost a double-overtime thriller to the defending champion Lakers; and Detroit carried that momentum into this week with big wins over Brooklyn, Boston and New Orleans. Rookie forward Saddiq Bey went off for a career-best 30 points, including a clutch 3-pointer, to seal the victory in Boston, while Mason Plumlee‘s first career triple-double lifted Detroit on Sunday. — Woodyard

This week: SAS, @DAL, @MEM, @ORL


29. Washington Wizards
2020-21 record: 7-17
Previous ranking: 28

The good thing is that after a dismal 3-12 start that included a COVID-19 outbreak within the team, the Wizards have won four of their past nine games. It’s a start! And their victory over Boston on Sunday marked the first time the defense-compromised Wizards actually held an opponent to under 100 all season. But with 48 games left, the Wizards must find more consistency and better D to have any shot at a play-in spot in the East. — Youngmisuk

This week: HOU, DEN, @POR


30. Minnesota Timberwolves
2020-21 record: 7-20
Previous ranking: 29

Karl-Anthony Towns returned from a challenging battle with COVID-19 and helped end a four-game losing streak for the Wolves with a strong win on Sunday against the Raptors. But this season has been so choppy for Minnesota, with few games at full strength. After trading for D’Angelo Russell last season, they saw the pairing with KAT only one time. It was an upside to this season to let the partnership grow. But with Russell out with leg soreness for the last week, they’ve only played in four games this season together, in which the Wolves are 2-2. — Young

This week: LAL, IND, TOR, @NYK



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