Even without Kevin Durant playing, the Brooklyn Nets are dominating opponents and staying on the heels of the Utah Jazz.
We’re back with another ESNY NBA Power Rankings. The Utah Jazz maintain their firm grasp on the top spot, but the Brooklyn Nets are making a hard charge for the crown.
Here is this week’s edition of the ESNY NBA Power Rankings.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record: 7-28) (Previous Ranking: 30)
Since our last rankings, the Timberwolves have fired their coach, but they haven’t won a game. It’s actually impressive how bad Minnesota is when you consider how much talent they have on the roster.
29. Houston Rockets (11-22) (24)
The Rockets are fading fast. After a brief shot of life in the wake of the James Harden trade, Houston fell off entirely. They are on a 12-game losing streak with no end in sight.
28. Detroit Pistons (9-25) (28)
The Pistons are a bizarre team. They will beat a title contender one night before getting blown out by a bottomfeeder the next. They have two more opportunities to hit double-digit wins before the All-Star break.
27. Orlando Magic (13-22) (27)
Injuries have done a number on this Orlando Magic squad this year. They are still out there playing good defense and running the offense through Nikola Vucevic, but they don’t have the talent to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.
26. Sacramento Kings (13-21) (22)
The Kings managed to beat the Pistons last Friday, but that is their only win since Feb. 7. They are another team that has a ton of talent on the roster with little to show for it in the standings. Luke Walton might be the next NBA head coach to get fired.
25. Atlanta Hawks (15-20) (23)
Speaking of coaches getting fired, the Hawks recently canned Lloyd Pierce. Atlanta was one of the trendiest playoff picks in 2020-21 after their massive offseason. However, they still don’t play much defense and need a big second half to make a playoff push.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-21) (26)
The Cavaliers are who we thought they were — one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference and by extension, the NBA. Still, they are on a four-game winning streak and have shown some signs of life lately.
23. Oklahoma City Thunder (14-20) (25)
The Thunder are near the bottom of the NBA this season, but they are not an easy game by any stretch. Their young core is led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and he appears to be a budding star in this league.
22. Washington Wizards (13-20) (29)
Don’t look now, but the Wizards are making a push in the Eastern Conference. Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook, and the Wizards have won seven of their last 10 as we approach the All-Star break.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (15-19) (21)
The Pelicans are a team that feels like it’s one year away from really becoming a playoff contender in the West. Zion Williamson is going to his first All-Star Game and New Orleans will be building around him for a long time.
20. Indiana Pacers (15-18) (14)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Pacers are in a bad place right now, dropping to three games under .500 for the first time all year.
19. Chicago Bulls (15-18) (20)
The Bulls are a pleasant surprise in the East. Billy Donovan is changing the culture in Chicago and Zach LaVine is a legitimate star player that everything revolves around. The Bulls are going to be in the mix for one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference this year. Book it.
18. Charlotte Hornets (16-18) (16)
The Charlotte Hornets are another team that is going to challenge for one of the last playoff spots in the East. LaMelo Ball is cementing his grasp on the Rookie of the Year with each passing game.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (16-15) (17)
The Grizzlies are still playing catch-up after a COVID shutdown put them behind the eight-ball. Ja Morant isn’t an All-Star yet, but give the young point guard time. He’s well on his way to stardom.
16. Miami Heat (17-18) (19)
Who would have thought the Miami Heat would be struggling to get to a .500 record at this point in the season? The bubble was clearly the perfect storm for the Heat, but don’t count them out just yet.
15. Toronto Raptors (17-18) (15)
The Raptors have suffered as much adversity as any team in the NBA this year. Whether it’s relocating to Tampa for the year and missing half of their coaching staff due to protocols, the Raptors have seen it all. Still, they are well within reach of a playoff spot in the East.
14. New York Knicks (18-18) (14)
It’s safe to peg the Knicks as one of the biggest surprises of the 2020-21 season. Picked by most to finish with the least wins in the entire NBA, the Knicks are cruising towards a playoff spot with Tom Thibodeau’s elite defense leading the way.
13. Dallas Mavericks (17-16) (18)
The Mavericks are winners of four of their last five and eight of their last 10. They are starting to find their rhythm after a perplexing start to the season. Luka Doncic is reasserting himself in MVP conversations with every game.
12. Boston Celtics (18-17) (11)
The Boston Celtics find themselves in the top half of our rankings despite the fact that it’s been a disappointing season thus far. The Celtics were seen as a legitimate contender in the East, but Kemba Walker’s decline and general inconsistency have limited Boston’s success this year.
11. Golden State Warriors (19-16) (10)
The Warriors are a tough team to nail down this year. Stephen Curry makes everything work for Golden State, but they have a tough time when he’s off the floor. They are capable of making some noise out West.
10. San Antonio Spurs (18-13) (12)
Are the Spurs back? We’re thinking they are back. While this San Antonio team might not have the horses to contend for a title this year, they defend, play unselfish egalitarian basketball, and limit turnovers. There are no off nights when you’re playing San Antonio.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (19-14) (7)
Portland is in the midst of a rough patch, losing four of their last five games, but they are still one of the better teams in the NBA. Keep in mind, they are staying afloat in the uber-competitive Western Conference despite missing CJ McCollum for the last month and a half.
8. Denver Nuggets (20-15) (9)
The Denver Nuggets are high up on our list for one reason — Nikola Jokic. The Serbian center is playing at a different level this year and he’s one of the early front runners to win MVP. The Nuggets will go as far as Jokic takes them.
7. Milwaukee Bucks (21-14) (8)
The Milwaukee Bucks are clearly among the top tier in the Eastern Conference right now. The East is a mashup of teams hovering around .500, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has Milwaukee above the fray and in a great position to challenge for the No. 1 seed.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (24-13) (4)
Don’t sleep on the Clippers, but after losing three of their last four, we feel comfortable dropping them in our rankings just a bit here.
5. Phoenix Suns (23-11) (6)
The addition of Chris Paul is paying dividends in Phoenix. After missing out on the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons, the Suns appear to be a lock to make it in 2021, but they have bigger goals than simply making the postseason.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (24-12) (3)
Although the Lakers have fallen on hard times, we would feel wrong dropping them too far down in our rankings. The health of Anthony Davis is the only thing that can keep this team from being the favorite to win the Western Conference. They are a team that desperately needs the All-Star break to reset.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (23-12) (5)
The Sixers have maintained their spot atop the Eastern Conference for most of the season. Joel Embiid is having the best year of his career and they are clearly one of the favorites in the East.
2. Brooklyn Nets (23-13) (2)
Even with Kevin Durant nursing a lingering hamstring issue, the Nets are absolutely dominating. James Harden won Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February and there is an argument to be made that Kyrie Irving was his closest competition for that accolade.
1. Utah Jazz (27-8) (1)
We are well past the point in the season where the Jazz are “having a nice start” or “surprising some people.” Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and the rest of the Jazz are legitimate title contenders this year.