NBA Power Rankings: Phoenix Suns Shining Bright & Washington Wizards Fall

Our guy, Ryan Kirksey takes a look at the NBA landscape and ranks each team in the league. Phoenix's stock is rising.
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NBA Power Rankings: Phoenix Suns Shining Bright & Washington Wizards Fall

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.

Largest Riser: Memphis Grizzlies (+5)

Largest Faller: Washington Wizards (-8)

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NBA Power Rankings - Bottom Tier

  • 30. Orlando Magic (9-40)
  • 29. Detroit Pistons (Record: 11-36)
  • 28. Oklahoma City Thunder (14-33)
  • 27. Houston Rockets (14-34)
  • 26. Indiana Pacers (17-32)
  • 25. Sacramento Kings (18-32)
  • 24. New Orleans Pelicans (18-29)
  • 23. San Antonio Spurs (18-31)
  • 22. Portland Trail Blazers (20-28)
  • 21. Washington Wizards (23-25)

Even with the return of Thomas Bryant a couple weeks ago, the Washington Wizards are flailing and barely holding on to the 10th seed and the last spot in the play-in tournament. They have lost four games in a row and are 4-6 in their last 10. Their offensive and defensive rating have both coincidentally dropped to 21st in the NBA so this seems about as appropriate spot as any. They should truthfully get knocked down farther after blowing a 35-point lead to the Clippers this week (including being up seven with 20 seconds left).

The Portland Trail Blazers have now played 48 games this season which means they have played 2,304 minutes (48 x 48 minutes). Only 274 of those 2,304 minutes have seen their preferred starting lineup on the floor. Injuries, COVID, babies being born, and a host of other issues have kept the Lillard-McCollum-Powell-Covington-Nurkic combo of court time together. It's not wonder they are clinging to the 10th seed in the West. Fortunately for Portland the Pelicans and Spurs have their own issues.

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NBA Power Rankings - Middle Tier

  • 20. New York Knicks (23-26)
  • 19. Atlanta Hawks (22-25)
  • 18. Los Angeles Lakers (24-25)
  • 17. Los Angeles Clippers (25-25)
  • 16. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-24)
  • 15. Toronto Raptors (23-23)
  • 14. Boston Celtics (25-24)
  • 13. Denver Nuggets (26-21)
  • 12. Charlotte Hornets (27-22)
  • 11. Dallas Mavericks (28-21)

Right after the Lakers rolled out a four-game win streak, they proceeded to lose three straight and since then have traded wins and losses the past six games. They will still make the playoffs this year, but have now fallen behind the Clippers and Timberwolves in the battle to stay above .500. In January, the Lakers are bottom-12 in both offensive and defensive rating. Just as LeBron James started playing at another level, Westbrook's game went in the tank. Now Anthony Davis is back, and the Lakers still have the three-stars-one-ball problem that plagued them early in the season. Will they get it fixed before April? They still have the seventh-best odds to take home the title. But I just don't see it.

The Boston Celtics, however, sit with just with 15th-best odds to take home the title (+8000) and they have just recently started fixing their consistency issues. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games, riding masterful offensive performances from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown plus defensive grit from Marcus Smart and Robert Williams. In fact, the Celtics have the NBA's best defensive rating over the last 10 games. Their offensive rating is seventh in that span so they look poised to make a run if they can keep up the elite play on both ends of the floor.

NBA Power Rankings - Elite Tier

  • 10. Chicago Bulls (30-17)
  • 9. Philadelphia 76ers (29-19)
  • 8. Brooklyn Nets (29-19)
  • 7. Milwaukee Bucks (30-20)
  • 6. Golden State Warriors (36-13)
  • 5. Cleveland Cavaliers (30-19)
  • 4. Utah Jazz (30-19)
  • 3. Memphis Grizzlies (33-17)
  • 2. Miami Heat (31-17)
  • 1. Phoenix Suns (38-9)

In 2020-2021, the Cleveland Cavaliers won a total of 22 games all season. Now, we are not even to the end of January and they are at 30 wins and have climbed up to third in the East on the back of an 8-2 record in their last 10 and some unbelievable defensive play up and down the lineup. The Cavs are tied for second in defensive rating in their last 10 games. Their "stopper lineup" with Garland-Okoro-Markkanen-Mobley-Allen is holding opponents to under 100 points per 100 possessions as they redefine the definition of Twin Towers. Both Mobley and Allen are candidates for an all-defensive team and Mobley is running away with the Rookie of Year award.

As we close out January, only the Warriors are within 6.5 games of the Phoenix Suns in the standings, and with how the Warriors have languished recently, it seems like no one can come close to catching them. The Suns, unsurprisingly, are the only team in the NBA in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating on the year. Among lineups that have played together at least 200 minutes this year, the Paul-Booker-Crowder-Bridges-Ayton grouping has the sixth-best offensive rating. They are an offensive and defensive force to be reckoned with and look like a tremendous value to cut down the nets at +700.

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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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