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: Jan. 27, 3:11 PM EST
NBA power rankings, top 10
1. Los Angeles Lakers (LW: 1)
It could be that the 14-4 Lakers are sleep walking through the early stages of the 2020-21 season. That was magnified this past week with a loss to the Golden State Warriors and narrow victories over the Grizzlies and Bulls. It’s also not unsurprising. Led by Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the defending champs are a veteran-laden squad. They’ll show up when it counts the most, as we saw during the NBA restart last season.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (LW: 6)
Amid a scathing report about preferential treatment and lackluster leadership, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George had a lot to clean up after their first season together, which netted an underwhelming trip to the playoffs’ second round. It has happened to an extent this season. Despite some recent issues with COVID-19 protocols, the Clippers have won seven consecutive games since a 6-4 start to the season. This has them ascending our most-recent NBA power rankings in a big way.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (LW: 2)
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. For his part, Curry is averaging 15.6 points on a ridiculous 54% shooting from distance. Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level, averaging 27.7 points and 11.5 rebounds. This has Philadelphia boasting a solid 12-6 record just over a month into the season.
4. Milwaukee Bucks (LW: 4)
Speaking of upgrading a roster, the Bucks did just that in swinging a trade for former New Orleans combo guard Jrue Holiday. Perhaps the most underrated two-way player in basketball and an elite on-ball defender, Holiday makes the Deer truly fearsome for any opponent that aspires to score. Prior to a recent loss to the above-mentioned Nets, it started clicking for Milwaukee. Overall, they have won eight of 11 since a slow start to the season.
5. Brooklyn Nets (LW: 3)
The James Harden and Kevin Durant connection is now in full swing after the former was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets earlier in January. Unfortunately, that has not translated over to the defensive end — even with Kyrie Irving having made his return. Brooklyn sits at a pedestrian 11-8 and are yielding north of 115 points per game. That’s not going to cut it for a legit title contender.
6. Utah Jazz (LW: 7)
Head coach Quin Snyder has been making lemons with lemonade for much of his Jazz tenure, perpetually searching for viable, consistent scoring and discovering only Donovan Mitchell. Thus far this season, everything is clicking. Utah has won eight consecutive after a slow start. The team’s depth is also on full display with six different players averaging double figures.
7. Boston Celtics (LW: 5)
We just can’t overlook a recent 20-point loss to the New York Knicks when checking in on the Celtics’ standing in our most-recent NBA power rankings. Sure Jayson Tatum was out of action due to COVID-19, but the rest of this team should have picked it up in his stead. Despite boasting the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, there’s still some concern regarding these Celtics. The good news? Boston is in the midst of a two-game winning streak after losing three consecutive.
8. Denver Nuggets (LW: 11)
Everyone was waiting for Denver to take that next step, and it took Jamal Murray emerging as one of the game’s premier lead guards for it to happen. Well, Nikola Jokic also kicked his game up another notch to help the Nuggets rally past the Clippers after a 3-1 deficit and into the Western Conference Finals. Thus far this season, it’s been a mixed bag. Nikola Jokic is playing at an MVP level. Murray has struggled to an extent. It had Denver at 10-7 on the season and in the midst of a four-game winning streak. Perhaps, things are turning around.
9. Indiana Pacers (LW: 9)
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. Even then, Indiana finds itself at 10-7. Both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are playing at All-NBA levels. In fact, they are averaging a combined 43.1 points, 16.5 rebounds and 12.8 assists per game. Can this underrated duo make the Pacers legit conference title contenders?
10. Portland Trail Blazers (LW: 13)
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum give Portland one of the most explosive guard tandems in the NBA. Unfortunately, their offensive prowess comes at a cost on defense. That came out in droves in consecutive losses to the Warriors and Bulls recently. At 9-7 on the season, Portland is yielding an average of 116.2 points per game. Meanwhile, McCollum will now be sidelined for a while after suffering a knee injury.
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11. Phoenix Suns (LW: 8)
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 of sorts for the long-downtrodden Suns in Phoenix. Despite losing four of five, Phoenix is still 8-7 on the season. A recent lineup change, inserting the impressive Cameron Johnson in lieu of Jae Crowder could have an impact here moving forward. Games coming up against the Thunder, Warriors and Mavericks (twice) will be telling.
12. Golden State Warriors (LW: 12)
It was just a few weeks ago that these Warriors were falling big time in our NBA power rankings. Blowout losses to the Nets and Bucks painted this team in a bad light. Without Klay Thompson (Achilles) in the mix, it looked like Stephen Curry had no help. That has changed big time since. Despite some consistency issues, Golden State finds itself at 9-8 on the season. Curry has reverted back to form, averaging 28.4 points on 40% shooting from distance. Yeah, these Warriors look like a playoff team.
13. San Antonio Spurs (LW: 14)
San Antonio, once again, returns 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 has won seven of 11. Unfortunately, neither DeRozan or Aldridge are doing much. Could they both be dealt ahead of the March NBA trade deadline?
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14. Dallas Mavericks (LW: 15)
Luka Doncic is one of the best handful of players in the NBA at this point. The 21-year-old is averaging 27.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.9 assists this season. He’s also out here making history in 2020-21. Despite this, the Mavericks are struggling as a team. They sit at 8-9 on the season and have lost five of seven.
15. Atlanta Hawks (LW: 16)
Injuries have impacted these Hawks in a big way after a red-hot 4-1 start to the season. It’s not a coincidence that injuries to off-season acquisitions Danilo Gallinari (ankle) and Bogdan Bogdanović (knee) have hurt the Hawks in recent weeks. After that 4-1 start, Atlanta has lost seven off 11. The good news? This team has won three of four.
16. Memphis Grizzlies (LW: 18)
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 7-6 on the season and in the midst of a five-game winning streak. That has Memphis moving up a bit in our most-recent NBA power rankings.
17. 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. Butler has missed the past eight games. It’s not a coincidence that Miami has lost six of those outings. Just as pressing, Miami ranks in the bottom seven in points scored and bottom 11 in points allowed. It really needs everyone back.
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18. Cleveland Cavaliers (LW: 20)
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. Cleveland sits at a surprising 8-9 after not having won its sixth game until its 29th try a season ago. Impressive.
19. Oklahoma City Thunder (LW: 19)
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 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists on the young season for the 7-9 Thunder.
20. Toronto Raptors (LW: 22)
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. The Raptors have lost 10 of 17 open the season with two ugly defeats at the hands of the Pelicans, Heat and Spurs. Unless Siakam and Co. step up, the Raptors will be mid-tier contenders in our NBA power rankings moving forward.
21. Orlando Magic (LW: 23)
Losers of four consecutive, 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. Simply put, these Magic don’t have the depth or talent to make up for said loss. They now rank 28th in the NBA in scoring. There’s just not a lot of talent in Orlando right now.
22. Charlotte Hornets (LW: 24)
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. Could this all come together and lead to a surprise playoff appearance? Not so fast. Graham has been a disaster shooting the ball. Charlotte has lost five of six after a decent start to the season. The one bright spot? Mr. Ball.
23. New York Knicks (LW: 21)
Let’s give new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau some credit here. New York sits at a shocking 8-10 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 did not earn their eighth win a season ago until their 32nd game in 2019-20. Good coaching and some talented young players have these Knicks on an upward trajectory.
24. Chicago Bulls (LW: 25)
Chicago will be improved simply because it upgraded at head coach with Billy Donovan. With that said, this team lacks the true star power to compete for a playoff spot. Zach LaVine could be headed out of town. Lauri Markkanen is in the final year of his contract and could be dealt ahead of the trade deadline. Even then, Chicago has found a way to stay at least somewhat competitive this season.
25. New Orleans Pelicans (LW: 17)
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. That has not happened thus far. New Orleans currently boasts the second-worst record in the Western Conference at 5-10 and has lost eight of nine. Ouch.
26. Houston Rockets (LW: 28)
The current iteration of these Rockets are among the worst teams in the NBA following the James Harden blockbuster trade. That’s not hyperbole. With John Wall, once again, sidelined, the team is relying on Victor Oladipo to be its best player. Meanwhile, a fire sale could be coming here soon. At 6-9 on the season, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for Houston. They are done.
27. Sacramento Kings (LW: 26)
On the surface, Sacramento has star power in that of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley. Unfortunately, it had not yet come together in California’s capital city under Luke Walton. After a 3-1 start to this season, the Kings have lost nine of 12. They’re yielding the second-most points in the NBA and Luke Walton doesn’t seem long for the job in California’s capital city. Just another year of disappointment in Sacramento.
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28. Minnesota Timberwolves (LW: 27)
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 to be the top dog, these Timberwolves are 4-12 on the season and losing by an average of 9.6 points per game. Minnesota better hope it lands a top-three pick, otherwise that selection is heading to the Warriors. Yeah, things are not going swimmingly in the Twin Cities.
29. Washington Wizards (LW: 29)
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 121.2 points per game, Washington currently boasts the third-worst record in the Association at 3-9. Oh, and they have played one game since Jan. 11 due to COVID-19 issues. Just gross.
30. Detroit Pistons (LW: 30)
Despite Derrick Rose’s return to form and the presence of the injury-plagued Blake Griffin, these Pistons are without the necessary talent to compete over the short term. Heck, the Pistons should have blown this whole thing up during the offseason. Relying on Delon Wright, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Jahlil Okafor to play big minutes is not a recipe for success. That’s evidenced by a 4-13 start to the season that is seeing Detroit give up 113 points per game. This hast Detroit among the bottom rung in our latest NBA power rankings.