NBA Power Rankings: Warriors look unstoppable; Pacers fall from top 10

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

How far can the Warriors go? Golden State ran its win streak to 10 games over the weekend, and the West juggernaut is averaging a league-leading 129.1 points per game in January.

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Tim MacMahon andAndre'Snellings, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) ranks all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which are looking most like title contenders.

Week 15 |14 |13 |12 |11 |10 |9 |8 |7 |6 |5 |4 |3 |2 |1 | Camp

1.Golden State Warriors

Record: 35-14

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will start in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. Will Steve Kerr coach in it? The staffs from the Western Conference and Eastern Conference teams with the best records on Feb. 3 will go to Charlotte, and the Warriors have a 1-game lead over the Nuggets. Kerr was the West's head coach in 2015 and 2017.-- Spears

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 35-13

At this rate, it could take an otherworldly performance to unseat James Harden as MVP favorite, but Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to make his case. In Friday's game against Charlotte, Mike Budenholzer -- staring at an 11-point hole to start the fourth quarter -- opted to plug in the Greek Freak at center. The shift spurred a huge run, and Giannis outscored the Hornets 14-12 in that final period. In Sunday's loss to the Thunder, Antetokounmpo was held to just 8-for-22 shooting despite pouring in 27 points with 18 rebounds.-- Herring

3. Denver Nuggets

Record: 33-15

Aside from a shocking loss to the Suns on Jan. 12, one the Nuggets avenged by thrashing the Suns by 37 points on Friday, the Nuggets have not lost to a team outside the West playoff picture since Dec. 8 (at Atlanta). Their consistently high-level performance has kept them as the only team out West still within a game of the surging Warriorsin the loss column and well on pace to host the first round of the playoffs after missing the postseason a season ago. --Snellings

Record: 37-15

The Raptors squeaked by Dallas on Sunday to salvage a bumpy, three-game road trip ahead of their nationally televised showdown vs. Milwaukee on Thursday. Let's hear it for load management! Kawhi Leonard returned from his four-game hiatus with a vengeance in a two-game explosion: 32.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and four assists with a true shooting percentage of 65.1.-- Arnovitz

5.Houston Rockets

Record: 29-20

Harden's historic run has lifted the Rockets into the middle of the West playoff picture, but Houston has received huge boosts from minimum-salary buyout bargains. Signing Austin Rivers was essential to surviving Chris Paul's absence, as he averaged 11.3 points and 3.8 assists in 37.1 minutes per game while Paul recovered from his strained hamstring. Kenneth Faried has been even better as Clint Capela's fill-in, averaging 14.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in four games, three of which were wins. "He's already been worth his money, that's for sure," coach Mike D'Antoni said. -- MacMahon

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 31-18

OKC has allowed at least 100 points in 20 straight games and allowed an average of 122.5 points in its past 11. The Thunder are 6-5 in those games and in the five losses have allowed opponents an average of 133.8 points on a 58.7 effective field goal percentage. Luckily, Paul George is making up for it with 31.4 points per game during the Thunder's five-game win streak.-- Snellings

7.Boston Celtics

Record: 30-19

Kyrie Irving has been one of the best offensive players in the NBA this season, currently ranking fourth in the league with an offensive real plus-minus of 4.92. Irving has stepped up his game even more of late, taking a much larger role in creating offense for both himself and the team while averaging 31 points and 11 assists with four double-doubles in his past five games. The Celtics won four of those games, with their lone loss a four-point squeaker against the Warriors. -- Snellings

8.Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 32-18

The Sixers averted some real trouble with news that Jimmy Butler's right wrist injury is short-term and that he should return to the court early this week before the big game on Thursday in Oakland. What a difference a couple of seasons makes for the telegenic, buzzy 76ers: Six of Philadelphia's next seven games will be nationally televised on major outlets. In 2016-17, only three Sixers games were broadcast to wider audiences, and all were before Christmas.-- Arnovitz

9.Portland Trail Blazers

Record: 31-20

Point guard Damian Lillard is hopeful to be named an All-Star for the fourth time and second year in a row on Thursday, when the reserves are named. Lillard is averaging 26.2 points, 6.2 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals this season. The Blazers are helping his cause with the West's fourth-best record entering the week.-- Spears

10. Utah Jazz

Record: 29-22

Donovan Mitchell's sophomore slump seems like a distant memory. He has performed at a superstar level while the Jazz have won nine of their past 10 games, averaging 30.4 points and 6.1 assists in that span. The only players in the league with a better plus-minus than Mitchell's plus-127 in the past 10 games are three Warriors (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green) and Utah teammate Rudy Gobert.-- MacMahon

11. San Antonio Spurs

Record: 29-22

LaMarcus Aldridge has clearly established himself as San Antonio's best All-Star candidate, having carried the Spurs in January while DeMar DeRozan struggled and dealt with nagging injuries. Aldridge is averaging 24.2 points per game on 56 percent shooting to lead the Spurs to an 8-5 record this month, while DeRozan has averaged 16.4 points on 41.8 shooting and missed three games. -- MacMahon

12. Brooklyn Nets

Record: 27-23

The Nets take another licking -- this time, the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie for three to six weeks for thumb surgery -- but keep on ticking. The Nets are winners of six straight after polishing off three non-playoff opponents at home, but now the degree of difficulty becomes a bit more challenging with road dates at Boston and San Antonio. The team hopes to welcomeCaris LeVertback next month but will need contributions from undrafted rookie Theo Pinson and Shabazz Napier to compensate for the absences on the perimeter.-- Arnovitz

13. Indiana Pacers

Record: 32-16

Victor Oladipo's season-ending injury is devastating for Indiana. Yes, the Pacers went 7-4 without him during that 11-game stretch in November and December -- a vast improvement over the team's 0-7 mark without him last season. But the club's first game after Oladipo's injury wasn't the most inspiring: a 106-103 loss to lowly Memphis, which had lost 19 of 22 going into that matchup.-- Herring

14. LA Clippers

Record: 28-22

The Clips' successful road trip and homecoming win reversed their winter swoon and prompted the question: Months before a summer that promises to be their biggest game hunt ever, are the Clippers buyers, sellers or holders at the trade deadline? Tobias Harris, on the bubble for an All-Star reserve spot, will soon learn his fate. The résumé: 21.1 points and eight rebounds per game with a true shooting percentage of 61.4 and a real plus-minus of 2.21 -- all career highs. -- Arnovitz

15.Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 26-24

LeBron James participated in some full-contact defensive drills over the weekend, bringing him one step closer to returning to a squad playing full-contact musical chairs for the final playoff spot in the West. Only two active players on the roster sport positive real plus-minus ratings: Ivica Zubac and Josh Hart.-- Arnovitz

16. Sacramento Kings

Record: 25-25

The Kings' most recent All-Star was DeMarcus Cousins, who made the team in 2017, 2016 and 2015. Will Sacramento have an All-Star for the first time post-Cousins this season? Sacramento might have two reserve selection dark horses in Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox. Hield is averaging 20.3 points per game and shooting 46 percent from 3-point range. Fox, a second-year guard, is averaging 17.5 points, 7.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds.-- Spears

17.Miami Heat

Record: 24-24

The Heat continue to maintain their pace as a potential playoff team this season with a defense-first mentality that makes them un-fun to play against. Their interior-based, zone-heavy defense is unusual in today's NBA, which makes it difficult for teams to plan against in-season, when practices are relatively rare. The Heat have parlayed this into the NBA's No. 6 defense, allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions.-- Snellings

18. Charlotte Hornets

Record: 23-25

With theAll-Star Game coming to Charlotte, Kemba Walker joined Glen Rice as the only members of the Charlotte Hornets organization to be All-Stars for three straight seasons. Rice was a three-time Charlotte Hornets All-Star in 1996-98.-- Spears

19.Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 24-26

The Timberwolves have been challenged as much by injuries as by foes of late. Second-leading scorer Derrick Rosehad a sore right ankle and sat out Sunday's loss to Utah, a game that guards Jeff Teague (foot) and Tyus Jones (ankle) also missed. Forward Robert Covington (knee) hasn't played since Dec. 31 but is now riding a stationary bike, according to interim coach Ryan Saunders. -- Spears

20.Dallas Mavericks

Record: 22-27

Dennis Smith Jr. has gotten sick of the discussion about whether he fits with Luka Doncic. "That's my dog, man," Smith told reporters Sunday. "All the speculation, I think it needs to stop. I don't really even like answering questions about it." The problem: The Mavs still struggle with both of their young lottery picks on the floor. The Mavs have won two of three since Smith's midseason sabbatical ended, but the starting lineup has been outscored by 14.2 points per 100 possessions in those games. Is that a Doncic/Smith issue or a Harrison Barnes/Wesley Matthews issue?-- MacMahon

21.Washington Wizards

Record: 21-28

They came up short against the Warriors this past week, but it's hard to put into words just how much better Washington looks now compared to at the beginning of the season, when effort was lacking. Since Jan. 1, the Wizards are 7-5, with the sixth-best defensive rating in that span. In the first nine games of the season, Washington was 2-7 with the NBA's fifth-worst defense.-- Herring

22.New Orleans Pelicans

Record: 22-28

If Anthony Davis gets the trade he's requested,Jahlil Okaforcould be in for an expanded role.The 23-year-old former No. 3 overall pick, now a minimum-salary reclamation project, has put up big numbers when injuries to Davis, Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle opened all the minutes he could handle. He's averaging 19.8 points on 75 percent shooting and 10.8 rebounds in the past four games. But Okafor remains a defensive liability, despite 11 blocks in this stretch, as the Pelicans have allowed 115 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.-- MacMahon

23. Detroit Pistons

Record: 21-27

If the struggling Pistons are to make a playoff push, this is likely their moment. They play six of their next seven contests at home, including four against clubs with sub-.500 records. At the moment, Detroit is 13-11 at home and 14-9 against teams below .500.-- Herring

24. Orlando Magic

Record: 20-30

The Magic have big decisions to make before the Feb. 7 trade deadline. They have lost 10 of their past 13 games but are four games out of the final playoff spot in the East. They need to decide whether to be buyers at the deadline and attempt to make a playoff run this season or become sellers with an eye more firmly toward the future. -- Snellings

25. Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 20-30

Marc Gasol had a simple explanation for interrupting Mike Conley's postgame TV interview after Sunday's win over the Pacers to plant a kiss on the point guard's cheek: "Because I love him." It's an emotional time in Memphis, as the Grit 'n' Grind mainstays don't know when their last win together might come. They have been consummate pros since it became public knowledge that the Grizzlies are shopping them, with Conley (22.3 points, 7.3 assists per game) and Gasol (18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists) doing nothing but helping their trade value last week.-- MacMahon

26. Atlanta Hawks

Record: 15-33

Had second-year forward John Collins not missed the first month of the season, he'd belong squarely in the conversation for Eastern Conference All-Star reserves. In 30 games, Collins has averaged 19.4 points and 10.2 rebounds in 30 minutes per game, with an eye-popping true shooting percentage of 64.8, including 38.7 percent from beyond the arc. On Saturday, Trae Young assembled his most complete offensive performance of the season with a 30-point, eight-assist, high-efficiency performance.-- Arnovitz

27. Phoenix Suns

Record: 11-41

Will Devin Booker finally be named an All-Star? The Suns' record isn't helping the fourth-year sharpshooter's cause, as they are running away with the worst record in the Western Conference. Booker enters the week averaging 24.6 points, 6.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.-- Spears

28.Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 10-41

Before beating the fellow cellar-dwelling Bulls on Sunday, Cleveland was largely having to rely on moral victories and individual milestones. Perhaps the most noteworthy ones from this past week: Cedi Osman, showing scoring flashes, had a career-best 25 points in a loss to Boston, then two nights later set a career high with 29 in a loss to Miami.-- Herring

29. Chicago Bulls

Record: 11-39

Just days after first-round pick Wendell Carter Jr. had surgery on his thumb that will keep him out eight to 12 weeks, fellow first-rounder Chandler Hutchison fractured his right toe and will miss two to four weeks. Any development this season would have been a plus for this young team. But with nearly all the key youngsters getting hurt -- and developing almost no cohesion because of those injuries -- the Bulls have had little on-court progress in 2018-19.-- Herring

Record: 10-38

The Knicks have leaned entirely into their youth movement, with Enes Kanter as the most recent veteran to fall out of favor. Coach David Fizdale informed Kanter, only 26 years old himself, that he would lose minutes to rookie Mitchell Robinson and sophomore Luke Kornet moving forward. Kanter has received consecutive DNP-CDs the past two games, despite Kornet's missing both games due to injury. The Knicks have lost nine straight games and 17 of their past 18.-- Snellings

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