NBA power rankings: With the 2020-21 NBA season started, there’s an overwhelming favorite to earn the title, as the Los Angeles Lakers seek to repeat as champions. However, the Clippers and Nuggets will have something to say about that out west. Back east, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers could be primed for championship runs. Let’s check in our latest NBA power rankings for the 2020-21 season.
Updated: April 1, 2:45 PM EST
NBA power rankings, top 10
1. Brooklyn Nets (Last Week: 1)
Even with Kyrie Irving and Durant missing time recently, these Nets have hit their stride big time. They sit at 33-15 on the season and have won 19-of-21. That includes victories of over contenders in the Lakers, Clippers, Celtics and Suns. Brooklyn now sits atop our most-recent NBA power rankings with James Harden playing at an MVP level.
2. Phoenix Suns (LW: 3)
The team that went undefeated in the Orlando bubble and just missed out on the playoffs in the West exchanged Ricky Rubio for Chris Paul at the all-important point guard position. Thus far this season, it’s led to a rebirth for the long-downtrodden Suns in Phoenix. The Suns sit at 33-14 on the season and have won 22-of-27. It’s their best 49-game start since all the way back in 2007-08 when Mike D’Antoni was head coach and Steve Kerr ran the front office. Let that sink in for a second.
3. Utah Jazz (LW: 4)
Head coach Quin Snyder has been making lemonade with lemons for much of his Jazz tenure, perpetually searching for viable, consistent scoring and discovering only Donovan Mitchell. Thus far this season, it’s been stunning. Since a 4-4 start to the campaign, Utah has won 32-of-39. That is in no way a typo. This is a legit NBA title contender.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 3)
New general manager Daryl Morey comes over from Houston and is assembling a core of players that’s more in line with the modern NBA. Dealing away big man Al Horford’s nightmarish contract was a great move, and surrounding point guard Ben Simmons with shooters like Seth Curry and Danny Green. It has worked out to perfection thus far. Philadelphia currently boasts the best record in the Eastern Conference at 32-15 record. Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level. Ben Simmons has picked his game up after some initial struggles. The addition of veteran point guard George Hill at the trade deadline will help for a playoff push, too. Unfortunately, things have taken a turn with Embiid sidelined to a knee injury.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 5)
While Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to play at an MVP level, these Bucks have been pretty darn inconsistent through 47 games. They boast a 30-17 record, good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. That includes winning nine of their past 12. The addition of P.J. Tucker in a deal with the Houston Rockets last week is only going to help matters for Milwaukee moving forward.
6. Denver Nuggets (LW: 6)
Prior to a recent hot run, it was a mixed back for Denver. That’s changed on a dime. Nikola Jokic is playing at an MVP level. Jamal Murray has picked up his game. It’s led to Denver winning 12-of-15. The acquisitions of Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee are also going to help big time for the stretch run. These Nuggets are now legit NBA title contenders.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (LW: 8)
Even with C.J. McCollum having just returned from injury, the Blazers are playing at a high level offensively. Led by All-Star Damian Lillard, they are averaging 115 points per game. Unfortunately, the team is also giving up over 115. That doesn’t seem to be sustainable. The good news? Portland is in the midst of a four-game winning streak after dropping eight of its previous 14. The addition of Norman Powell at the NBA trade deadline seems to have helped.
8. Los Angeles Lakers (LW: 7)
With Anthony Davis sidelined for the foreseeable future to an Achilles’ injury, these Lakers have hit a major rut. Including recent losses to the Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings, they have dropped 11 of their past 19. More than anything, depth has become an increasing concern for the defending champs in the frontcourt. That’s now magnified with LeBron James sidelined to a high-ankle sprain and following an inactive NBA trade deadline. Perhaps, the addition of Andre Drummond will help.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (LW: 9)
The Clippers have fallen back to the pack after some success back in January. Heading into this February, they had won 10 of 11. Since then, it’s been a bit inconsistent. The Clippers find themselves at 17-12 since the start of February and just recently lost to the lowly Orlando magic. There’s issues as it relates to depth in the backcourt and at point guard. It’s something Los Angeles addressed at the NBA trade deadline, acquiring Rajon Rondo from the Atlanta Hawks. It remains to be seen if that will put them over the top. I highly doubt it.
10. Dallas Mavericks (LW: 11)
Luka Doncic is one of the best handful of players in the NBA at this point. The 22-year-old is averaging 28.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.9 assists this season. He’s also out here making history in 2020-21. It has also led to a resurgence for Dallas. The team has won 16-of-23 since some major struggles to open the season. The bigger story in Big D right now is the acquisition of sharpshooting guard J.J. Redick. He’s going to help Doncic big time moving forward.
NBA power rankings: Rising talent, some struggles
11. Miami Heat (LW: 10)
After a surprise run to the NBA Finals in which they pushed the Lakers to six games despite Bam Adebayo being beat up and Goran Dragic missing most of the series, Miami is running it back. Unfortunately, COVID issues relating to Jimmy Butler and other players have impacted this team in a big way. After some recent success, Miami finds itself at 24-24 and as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Pat Riley also did this team a solid by acquiring All-Star guard Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately, that was with Miami in the midst of a six-game losing streak. Even after winning two consecutive, there’s issues here.
12. San Antonio Spurs (LW: 13)
San Antonio, once again, returned the core of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge from a team that missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996-97. There was some thought that Gregg Popovich and Co. were going to blow this up and start anew. That did not happen. After a 2-4 start to the season, San Antonio stepped it up and is in playoff positioning. Moving on from Aldridge is a big deal. But it’s also a clear sign that Gregg Popovich trusts his young core.
13. Boston Celtics (LW: 12)
General manager Danny Ainge knows full well that his struggling team needs a shot in the arm. That’s why he pulled off a trade for Orlando Magic star wing Evan Fournier. While we can question this move all we want over the long term, it will help Boston big time moving forward on the season. Whether it’s enough for the surprisingly mediocre 23-25 Celtics to turn things around remains to be seen.
14. Chicago Bulls (LW: 15)
Zach LaVine. Zach LaVine. More Zach LaVine. The first-time All-Star has been absolutely dominating for a surprising Bulls team this season. He’s averaging 27.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists on a resounding 51% shooting from the field. Chicago’s brass then pulled off the biggest trade of the deadline, acquiring one of the game’s best bigs in Nikola Vučević. Not only is this going to help the team as it pushes for a playoff spot, it’s a huge move going forward.
15. New York Knicks (LW: 17)
Let’s give new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau some credit here. New York sits at a surprising (by their standards) 24-24 on the season. Boasting one of the least-talented rosters in the NBA, that is some darn good news in the Big Apple. After all, the Knicks won 21 games all of last season. Julius Randle is playing at an elite clip. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Derrick Rose has acted the part of a boon recently.
16. Atlanta Hawks (LW: 15)
Inconsistency and more inconsistency. That’s been the name of the game for these Hawks. That led to the firing of head coach Lloyd Pierce earlier in March. The good news is that this team sits at 9-4 under interim head coach Nate McMillan. Unfortunately, four losses in their past five games has the Hawks as the seventh seed and on a downward trajectory in our latest NBA power rankings.
17. Charlotte Hornets (LW: 19)
Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier make for a fine backcourt. The addition of guard LaMelo Ball at the top of the 2020 NBA Draft was great. Meanwhile, Charlotte did add a former All-Star in that of Gordon Hayward at a high cost. After an amazing rookie season, Ball suffered a fractured wrist earlier in March and could be lost for the season. That’s highly unfortunate and it will impact Charlotte’s playoff hopes moving forward. Despite this, the Hornets are 24-22 on the campaign and find themselves as the fourth seed back east. If Ball can return late in the season or during the playoffs, this could be a dangerous team.
18. Golden State Warriors (LW: 17)
Inconsistency has been the name of the game for most teams during this season. Golden State is no different. Two recent losses against the Hornets and Magic — both of which the Warriors should have won — adds another layer to that. Despite this, Steve Kerr’s squad currently sits at 23-24 and as the ninth seed. The recent James Wiseman COVID issues coupled with Stephen Curry’s minor injury has the Warriors struggling of late. Unfortunately, the Warriors opted to do nothing of substance ahead of the NBA trade deadline, Perhaps, something could be in the cards via the buyout market after the created two roster spots.
19. Indiana Pacers (LW: 18)
Indiana’s attempt to land Gordon Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics failed miserably. It could have set this team back, especially with the long-term situation relating to All-Star guard Victor Oladipo being unsettled prior to his trade to the Houston Rockets. Despite both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon playing at All-NBA levels, we’ve seen some major struggles in Indiana recently. The team has dropped 11-of-17. This must change in short order moving forward.
NBA power rankings, outside looking in
20. New Orleans Pelicans (LW: 22)
Did New Orleans improve this offseason by trading Jrue Holiday? We’re not too sure. What we do know is that a core two of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram was thought to have this team in playoff contention throughout the season. It’s been a mixed bag thus far. New Orleans sits at 21-25 on the season. The good news? Williamson is more than living up to his billing. He’s averaging 29.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 65% shooting over the past 21 games. The bad news? Last season’s struggles at the Bubble in Orlando have extended to the 2020-21 campaign.
21. Memphis Grizzlies (LW: 20)
Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. represent one of the better young tandems in the NBA. At issue here is the knee injury Jackson suffered during the NBA restart in Orlando this past summer. He’s still sidelined. Outside of these two, the Grizzlies lack the true talent to be considered a legit playoff contender out west. Despite this, Taylor Jenkins has his team playing competitive ball. They are 22-23 on the season.
22. Oklahoma City Thunder (LW: 23)
The future is bright for these Thunder. They legitimately have like 20 first-round picks over the next half-decade. However, that’s not going to lead to success in 2020-21 after trading away star guards Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder. However, we’re excited to see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander morph into a star. He’s averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists on the season for the 20-27 team. Unfortunately, a long-term foot injury has SGA sidelined for the foreseeable future.
23. Sacramento Kings (LW: 25)
On the surface, Sacramento has star power in that of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton. That did not translate to much success earlier in the season. Unfortunately, it’s been all about a lack of consistency. After winning seven of eight, Sacramento dropped 13 of 21. Since then, the Kings have won five of six and find themselves within reaching distance of a play-in spot. What version of this team will show up over the final six weeks of the season?
24. Toronto Raptors (LW: 21)
NBA champions two years ago and a surprisingly frisky foe in their title defense, the Raptors aren’t who they were when Kawhi Leonard was on the team. That’s come out in droves with Pascal Siakam and Co. struggling to a disastrous start in Tampa Bay. Toronto currently sits at 18-30 and lost 13-of-14. The good news? Kyle Lowry was not moved ahead of the trade deadline. Toronto also might have upgraded by moving Norman Powell for sharpshooting wing Gary Trent Jr. The bad news? Lowry is currently sidelined to injury.
25. Washington Wizards (LW: 24)
We were super excited to see how Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook would look in the same backcourt. For Beal, that’s a major upgrade after the recently-traded John Wall missed pretty much each of the past two seasons. Primarily due to a defense that has given up an absurd 120.2 points per game, Washington struggled to 5-15 start to the season. After turning it around some, the Wizards lost 11-of-15. They are now among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (LW: 26)
Cleveland did a tremendous job in adding wing Isaac Okoro in the 2020 NBA Draft. The team also has two stud young guards in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, who are living up to the hype amid what was a hot start. Unfortunately, that has come crashing down recently. Cleveland has lost 22-of-30 and is closer to the cellar in the Eastern Conference than battling for a playoff spot.
27. Detroit Pistons (LW: 27)
The recent trade of Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin’s departure are two clear indications that the Pistons are in full-scale rebuild mode. The good news? This team is finally going into full-scale rebuild mode. Rookie Saddiq Bey is averaging 13.1 points on 45% shooting from distance since the start of February. With Griffin now gone from Detroit, the focus will be on the youngsters for the 13-34 Pistons.
NBA power rankings: The bottom three
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 28)
Yuck. The injury to Karl-Anthony Towns and his ensuing positive COVID-19 test has impacted this team in a huge way. Relying on D’Angelo Russell (up until his recent injury) to be the top dog, these Timberwolves are 12-36 on the season and losing by an average of 7.7 points per game. With Russell sidelined for the foreseeable future, things are not going to get better for one of the NBA’s worst teams.
29. Orlando Magic (LW: 29)
Having lost 29-of-39 since a 6-2 start to the season, there’s some major concerns in Orlando right now. That includes star guard Markelle Fultz being lost for the season due to a torn ACL. Recent trades of Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vučević has this team starting over anew with a rebuild. It’s now right there with the Houston Rockets as the least-talented squad in the Association.
30. Houston Rockets (LW: 30)
The current iteration of these Rockets looked like one of the worst teams in the NBA following the James Harden blockbuster trade. That’s not hyperbole. The recent lopsided trade of Victor Oladipo to the Miami Heat adds to this. We’re talking about a potentially historically bad team that’s coming off a 20-game losing streak. There’s no end in sight for Houston.