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NBA Power Rankings: The Brooklyn Nets Continue to Find a Way

Despite being ravaged by COVID protocols and injuries, the Brooklyn Nets continue to find a way to win, maintaining their place at the top of the East. Meanwhile, neither the Suns nor the Warriors are backing down in the battle for the West in our latest NBA power rankings.
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NBA Power Rankings: The Brooklyn Nets Continue to Find a Way

NBA expert Ryan Kirksey steps in to take a look at how the NBA is shaping up and give us his weekly NBA Power Rankings. He starts at the bottom, with his bottom-tier teams, and ends by grouping his top 10 in an elite group of their own.

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NBA Power Rankings - Bottom Tier

30. Detroit Pistons (Record: 5-27)

29. Orlando Magic (7-28)

28. Houston Rockets (10-25)

27. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-21)

26. Indiana Pacers (14-20)

25. Portland Trail Blazers (13-20)

24. Sacramento Kings (14-21)

23. San Antonio Spurs (14-19)

22. New Orleans Pelicans (13-22)

21. Toronto Raptors (14-17)

- This might go down as a lost season for the Toronto Raptors, but they sure aren't going down without a fight. They are without most of their roster right now, including their best five players being out due to COVID or personal reasons. All of Fred Van Vleet, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Goran Dragic and OG Anunoby are absent presently, which is a playoff-caliber lineup. Still, with guys like Chris Boucher and Yuta Watanabe leading the way, Toronto is 5-5 in their last 10 and just a half-game out of a play-in tournament spot. If they get healthy by the All-Star break, this is a team to watch out for.

- From last time I published a Power Rankings update: "Things are getting tumultuous for the Portland Trail Blazers this week. First came injuries to Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons. Now Lillard leaked through some sources that he would like to play with some defensive-minded wings, throwing some shade at CJ McCollum. Their General Manager was fired last week and they got blown out three times as well." At that time I predicted Portland was destined for the play-in tournament for the Playoffs, but they since lost eight of 10 games and sit 12th in the West. The Blazers are now 28th in the league in defensive rating, and sit just fractions of a point behind the Rockets and Hornets for worst defensive team. With CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic missing long stretches, their offensive rating has also tumbled to 16th. This is a team headed in the wrong direction and likely will be trade deadline sellers.

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NBA Power Rankings - Mid-Tier

20. New York Knicks (16-18)

19. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-18)

18. Atlanta Hawks (15-18)

17. Los Angeles Lakers (17-18)

16. Los Angeles Clippers (17-17)

15. Dallas Mavericks (16-17)

14. Boston Celtics (16-18)

13. Washington Wizards (17-17)

12. Charlotte Hornets (18-17)

11. Denver Nuggets (17-16)

- From what I see on social media from the Boston Celtics' fan base, they are extremely unhappy about the way this season is going. The Celtics are 3-7 in their last 10 games and now have teammates bickering at each other through the media about whether they need to "look into the mirror" or not. Like many teams, the answer for Boston may just be that they need some relief from the COVID situation. Besides Marcus Smart being injured, all of Dennis Schroder, Jayson Tatum, Josh Richardson, and Jaylen Brown have all spent time on the COVID list. COVID looks like the issue that will define this NBA season, and it's the teams with excellent depth that are able to make their way through the storm. That's an area where Boston desperately needs help.

- The Los Angles Lakers needed a win against the lowly Houston Rockets to stop a five-game losing streak, but they still sit below .500 on the year and are 4-6 in their last 10. This is uncharted territory for a LeBron James-led team. James' PER this season is an amazing 25.3, which would be the highest for any player aged 37 or older in NBA history. But, according to ESPN Stats and Info, the Lakers became the first LeBron team since 2007-2008 to be under .500 through their first 33 games. At this point, all LeBron can do at this points is wait for Anthony Davis to get healthy and hope they sneak into the playoffs.

NBA Power Rankings - Elite Tier

10. Philadelphia 76ers (18-16)

9. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-14)

8. Memphis Grizzlies (21-14)

7. Miami Heat (22-13)

6. Milwaukee Bucks (23-13)

5. Chicago Bulls (21-10)

4. Utah Jazz (24-9)

3. Brooklyn Nets (23-9)

2. Phoenix Suns (26-7)

1. Golden State Warriors (27-7)

- The two heavyweights at the top of the West battled in another instant classic on Christmas with the Warriors knocking out the Suns. These two teams seem destined to meet again the Western Conference Finals, but the Warriors seem like the team to beat with all of the reinforcements they have coming soon. Both Klay Thompson and James Wiseman should join the team this month, and once they are at full strength, they look like the team to beat.

- We know that the Nets still have not played a game without James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving together this year. But lately, they are getting by with just one star and a motley crew of supporting characters who most NBA fans had never heard of coming into the year. Still, whether it's been Harden or Durant carrying the team, they are showing why they have the talent and depth to take home the NBA title if they can get the whole band together. With guys like Patty Mills, Nic Claxton and DeAndre Bembry playing big minutes, they are still 7-3 in their last 10 and will likely hold the home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

NBANFL

Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.

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