INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 17, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Despite some changes in the top 10 of ESNY’s NBA Power Rankings, the Los Angeles Lakers are still the best of the best.

Danny Small

There were some big changes in the ESNY NBA Power Rankings this week, but one thing has stayed the same all year: The Lakers are the top dog in the league. The Nets, Clippers, Sixers, and Jazz are all in the mix at the top of the NBA, but the Lakers reign supreme.

Here is this week’s edition of the ESNY NBA power rankings of the 2020-21 season.

30. Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous Ranking: 30) (Record: 4-12)

The Timberwolves are in a bad place right now. As long as Karl-Anthony Towns struggles to stay on the floor, Minnesota is going to continue sliding. Even with the talented backcourt of Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell, the Timberwolves can’t seem to figure it out.

29. Washington Wizards (26) (3-10)

The Wizards are failing and flailing right now. Even with the return of Russell Westbrook, Washington is outmatched in every game. They are 28th in the NBA in defensive rating and 23rd in net rating.

28. Detroit Pistons (29) (4-13)

The Pistons went 1-3 for a second consecutive week and Jerami Grant is starting to cool off. After dropping 32 in a loss against Atlanta, he averaged 19 points on 28% shooting in Detroit’s next three games. They did have a convincing 15-point win over the Sixers on Monday.

27. New Orleans Pelicans (25) (5-10)

There are rumors of the Pelicans looking to start shopping guys. That’s a telltale sign that a team is underperforming expectations. With so much young talent on the roster, it’s surprising to see New Orleans struggle like this.

26. Miami Heat (24) (6-10)

It’s usually smart to avoid pushing the panic button so early into the season, but the Heat are getting dangerously close to that point. They are 6-10 and have injuries up and down the roster. Their saving grace is that the Eastern Conference is also a mess. They are only one game out of a playoff spot.

25. Sacramento Kings (27) (6-10)

The Kings took advantage of a road-weary Knicks squad over the weekend, but they still rank as the worst team in the NBA in defensive rating and they only have one win in their last five games.

24. Charlotte Hornets (23) (7-10)

It’s tough to get a read on these Hornets right now. Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Devonte’ Graham can all score in bunches, but they are having a hard time developing any consistency.

23. Chicago Bulls (21) (7-10)

Zach LaVine continues his overall improvement as a player. He’s flirting with 50/40/90 shooting splits and is averaging career-highs in rebounds (4.6) and assists (5.3). Chicago is starting to come together under Billy Donovan, but there is still significant room for improvement.

22. Oklahoma City Thunder (18) (7-9)

The Thunder began the year hotter than anyone expected, but they have since cooled off. After starting the year 5-4, they are down to 7-9. They have plenty of young talent and some good veteran pieces like George Hill and Al Horford, but they are rebuilding.

21. Houston Rockets (28) (7-9)

The Houston Rockets are among the hottest teams in the NBA. John Wall is fresh off of his “revenge” game against the Wizards and the Rockets are quietly on a three-game winning streak. It seems as though trading James Harden helped this Houston team move on in the best possible way.

20. Orlando Magic (19) (8-10)

The Orlando Magic are currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but they are in the midst of a major slide. They’ve lost eight of their last 10, but they might be stabilizing. Since our power rankings last week, the Magic are 2-2.

19. New York Knicks (16) (8-11)

Knicks have come back down to earth yet again. They are on a three-game losing streak after struggling on a Western Conference road trip. They are still playing above expectations, but they have a big weekend ahead with the Cavaliers and the Clippers on the slate.

18. Toronto Raptors (20) (7-10)

The Raptors’ current record doesn’t match up with the talent on the roster. Their move to Tampa Bay has undoubtedly taken a toll on the team, but they are starting to pick things up.

17. Cleveland Cavaliers (22) (8-9)

The Cleveland Cavaliers might be a little bit better than we thought before the season started, huh? Collin Sexton is stepping up to average 24.8 points on 51/46/81 shooting splits. He was unreal in two wins over the Brooklyn Nets last week.

16. Dallas Mavericks (12) (8-9)

Dallas is staying afloat almost entirely because of Luka Doncic. The supporting cast, including max-level player Kristaps Porzingis, are not pulling their weight. If Doncic’s running mates can start putting it together, Dallas could be dangerous in the Western Conference, but they are not quite there yet.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (15) (7-6)

The Grizzlies are the official COVID-19 team on our power rankings. They have not played since last week and therefore, they stay put at 15.

14. Atlanta Hawks (17) (9-8)

Don’t look now but the Atlanta Hawks are on a roll. They have won four of their last five and are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. However, the East is pretty mucked up with a lot of teams in the mix.

13. San Antonio Spurs (13) (9-8)

The Spurs keep plugging along and staying relevant in the Western Conference. They are within striking distance despite sitting on the outside of the playoff picture. They have a balanced roster as is tradition in San Antonio.

12. Portland Trail Blazers (14) (9-7)

The Trail Blazers are fifth in the Western Conference, but they are about to embark on a brutal six-game road trip against six Eastern Conference opponents. We will know a lot more about this Portland team after that road trip.

11. Phoenix Suns (8) (8-7)

The Suns are still trying to figure out how to put the pieces together after making some big changes in the offseason. With that said, they have too much talent to fail.

10. Golden State Warriors (10) (9-8)

The Golden State Warriors are sitting at 10 on our power rankings, but we expect to see them fly up in the next few weeks. They have played the toughest schedule in the NBA up to this point and have the easiest schedule the rest of the way.

9. Indiana Pacers (9) (10-7)

The Pacers are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference despite losing Caris LeVert to a small mass on his kidney. Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are playing like All-Stars and the Pacers have seven different players averaging in double digits.

8. Denver Nuggets (11) (10-7)

We have to say it for a second consecutive week. Nikola Jokic is a bad man. He’s continuing on his MVP pace this year and Denver is on a four-game winning streak due in large part to Jokic’s incredible start.

7. Milwaukee Bucks (5) (10-6)

The Milwaukee Bucks fall slightly this week, but they are still in a good position. The Bucks are still in the top tier of Eastern Conference teams and we expect those four (Milwaukee, Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia) to jump around a little bit in the top 10 as the season progresses.

6. Boston Celtics (7) (10-6)

The Boston Celtics are going to go as far as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum take them. This is their team now. The Celtics bounced back to win two in a row last week.

5. Brooklyn Nets (2) (11-8)

The Nets dropped two games to the Cavaliers last week, but they also beat the Heat twice. Brooklyn is trying to figure out how all of the pieces fit on the roster, but when you have James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, you are already a title contender.

4. Utah Jazz (6) (13-4)

The Utah Jazz caught plenty of deserved criticism for dropping a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs last year. However, they are out to a red hot start this year. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are earning their contracts so far.

3. Philadelphia 76ers (4) (12-6)

Doc Rivers is leading a resurgence in Philadelphia after years of underachieving. Joel Embiid is in the way-too-early conversation for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Philly is in first place in the Eastern Conference and looking like a legitimate title contender.

2. Los Angeles Clippers (3) (13-5)

The Clippers lost to the Hawks on Tuesday, but that snapped a seven-game winning streak that pushed them towards the top of the Western Conference standings. Despite their embarrassing end in the bubble, don’t sleep on this Clippers team.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) (13-4)

The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be at or near the top of this list all year long. Even with the short offseason, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are carrying this roster to a 13-4 start.

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