NBA Power Rankings: More Jimmy drama and a rising OKC


The Blazers are on top of the Western Conference, the Celtics wouldn't have home court if the playoffs started today and the Grizzlies are a half-game behind the defending champs, who have just lost three straight! We're a month into the 2018-19 season, and things are ... odd.
Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Tim MacMahon and Andre Snellings, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) ranks the league's 30 teams from top to bottom.
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1. Toronto Raptors
Record: 13-4
The Raptors took out their frustrations from their three-game losing streak -- including an excruciating overtime loss at Boston on Friday -- on a hapless Chicago team on Saturday. The numbers during the skid are downright weird. Toronto sported the third-least efficient defense over the streak, yet ranked second defensively in opponent shot quality. Victims of bad luck? Whatever the case, it's a get-well tour for the Raps this week: road dates at Orlando and Atlanta, followed by home games versus Washington and Miami. -- Arnovitz
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 11-4
Four of the Bucks' five starters shot 50 percent from the field or better this week, while the other, Malcolm Brogdon, shot 54 percent from 3-point range. But balance is what sets this club apart. Milwaukee ranks No. 2 and No. 5 in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively, heading into Sunday -- the Bucks and Raptors are the only teams to rank in the top five in both. -- Herring
3. Golden State Warriors
Record: 12-6
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is in the midst of just his fourth three-game losing streak since taking over in 2014. He also called it his toughest stretch since coming on board. Golden State went winless in Texas after working to overcome the aftermath of the verbal spat between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. Lost in the losing and drama is that the Warriors are plagued by injuries with Green (toe), Stephen Curry (groin) and Alfonzo McKinnie (foot) out while still waiting for DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) to debut. -- Spears
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 10-5
The Thunder are the hottest team in the NBA, having won 10 of their past 11 games despite Russell Westbrook having missed the past six contests. Westbrook's injured ankle seems to be healed, but he missed Saturday night's game to join his wife, Nina, for the birth of their daughters. In Westbrook's absence, Paul George has led the way with averages of 27.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 5.0 APG and 2.6 SPG in his past five games. -- Snellings
5. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 11-5
The Blazers now have the best record in the Western Conference despite losing two of their past three games. Give credit to All-Star Damian Lillard for leading the way, as he already has racked up three 40-point games this season. -- Spears
6. Boston Celtics
Record: 9-7
Boston started the week with two strong wins, including a statement victory against a Toronto squad that many see as the biggest competition for the crown in the Eastern Conference. However, the Celtics squandered that momentum with a week-closing loss to the Jazz at home, their second loss to Utah in their past five games. The Celtics have a winnable week coming up, with four straight games against teams below .500 that missed the playoffs last season. -- Snellings
7. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 11-7
Week 1 of the Jimmy Butler era ended with a bang -- a filthy, step-back 3-pointer to lift the Sixers in overtime on Saturday night at Charlotte after missing a game winner in regulation. For all the suspense and swirling storylines, the Sixers are tied for the No. 3 seed. They will play six of their next seven games at The Center as the NBA's only unbeaten team at home. In the individual accolades department, JJ Redick's effective field goal percentage in the clutch this season is 67.4 -- second only to Victor Oladipo among players with at least 20 field goals attempted. -- Arnovitz
8. LA Clippers
Record: 10-5
In two short seasons, the team everybody loved to hate restyled itself as the team everyone loves to love. And what's not to love: The Clippers are riding a four-game winning streak with Lou Williams as their smooth closer, Montrezl Harrell the lunch-bucket energizer, Tobias Harris the workmanlike star, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander the tantalizing rookie, Danilo Gallinari as the comeback kid, Boban Marjanovic the folk hero and, as irritants go, even Patrick Beverley is comparatively likable. -- Arnovitz
9. Houston Rockets
Record: 8-7
The Rockets are rolling again now that Chris Paul, who has dealt with tendinitis in his shooting elbow, is playing like one of the league's premier point guards again. He has averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and 2.3 steals during Houston's four-game winning streak, shooting a sizzling 59.1 percent from the floor and 59.3 percent from 3-point range. James Harden has looked like an MVP again, too, averaging 30.8 points and 7.8 assists during the streak. -- MacMahon
10. Indiana Pacers
Record: 10-6
Victor Oladipo was listed as questionable with a sore right knee heading into Saturday's game with Atlanta, then left that contest five minutes in after falling into a cameraman and aggravating the injury. The Pacers obviously need him -- they went 0-7 without him last season -- but Oladipo should take his time, given that he missed games last season because of discomfort in the same knee. -- Herring
11. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 10-5
Marc Gasol is a former Defensive Player of the Year. Jaren Jackson Jr. has the potential to win the honor in the future. Pair them together, and opponents really have a problem scoring. Memphis has held foes to a measly 90.1 points per 100 possessions in the 204 minutes with Gasol and Jackson both on the floor. That's one reason 19-year-old rookie Jackson remained in the starting lineup when JaMychal Green returned after missing 12 games due to a broken jaw. -- MacMahon
12. Denver Nuggets
Record: 10-6
The Nuggets remain in their slump, having lost five of their past six games with their only win over the lowly Hawks. Denver succeeded early in the season with a strong offense and a better-than-advertised defense, but the defense has suffered of late as they've allowed 116.8 PPG to opponents over the past four losses. -- Snellings
13. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 9-7
The Lakers' strange 2-1 week offers plenty of evidence for both booster and critic. In wins over Portland and Miami, LeBron James turned in his two most dominant performances of the season, quieting doubters who wondered whether we were seeing Twilight LeBron. Defensively, the Lakers played respectably against Portland for three quarters, tightened the vise on Miami, yet in between coughed up 130 points to a bottom-five offense in Orlando. -- Arnovitz
14. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 9-7
The Pelicans haven't had any lineup play more than 88 minutes together this season because they've had so many injuries. They are 5-0 with their preferred starting lineup -- a group that has an eye-popping plus-26.6 net rating in 65 minutes -- but point guard Elfrid Payton is out for an extended period again due to a fractured left pinkie finger that requires surgery, an injury he suffered in his return after missing nine games due to an ankle sprain. -- MacMahon
15. Utah Jazz
Record: 8-8
Rudy Gobert wants the Jazz to recreate the tough identity they had during their 29-6 run to end last regular season. "We were so good because we wanted to shut everybody's mouth," Gobert told ESPN. "I think we've got guys [that] are hungry, that want to win, but sometimes we forget why we're a good team. No matter, we've got to keep our minds on the right thing, which is defense, and offensively things are going to take care of themselves." -- MacMahon
16. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 8-7
The Spurs hope that LaMarcus Aldridge's 24-point performance on 10-of-16 shooting in Sunday's win over the Warriors is a sign of things to come. Aldridge's slump played a significant part in the Spurs' recent funk, as he averaged 12.8 points on 34.1 percent shooting while San Antonio lost five of the previous six games. Aldridge in wins: 23.8 points, 49.7 field goal percentage. Aldridge in losses: 11.0 points, 31.6 field goal percentage. -- MacMahon
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 7-10
We should have expected the Wolves to look at least somewhat different in the aftermath of the Jimmy Butler trade, merely because of how unique a player he was. But if there's one thing that has jumped off the screen with Minnesota lately, it has been the effort. Andrew Wiggins in particular has looked rejuvenated by the fresh start, while Dario Saric and Robert Covington are still settling into their new digs. -- Herring
18. Detroit Pistons
Record: 7-6
It's still early, but Wednesday's victory in Toronto -- in coach Dwane Casey's emotional return there, after being fired this past offseason despite a 59-win season -- seemed meaningful for this Pistons club. Earning the win on a last-second play that Casey drew up made it even more special for the group. -- Herring
19. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 7-8
The Mavs' four straight wins have coincided with Harrison Barnes getting his legs under him. He missed a month, including the first four games of the season, after straining his hamstring early in camp and took several games to get his wind and rhythm. He has averaged 19 points on 51.1 percent shooting during the winning streak. "My body's feeling good, feeling like I can finally just go out there and play," Barnes said. -- MacMahon
20. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 7-8
Hornets guard Kemba Walker is coming off a career-high 60-point scoring game against the Sixers in an overtime loss. The All-Star is also leading the Eastern Conference in scoring with 28.7 points per game. So who is the Hornets' second-leading scorer? Jeremy Lamb with 13.4 points per game to rank 96th in the league. With a 7-8 record for Charlotte, Walker's accolades are not getting the attention they deserve. -- Spears
21. Orlando Magic
Record: 9-8
The Magic have won seven of their past nine games to move to the top of the pedestrian Southeast Division. Nikola Vucevic has stepped forward as the clear team leader, making himself a nightly 20-10 guy with legitimate 30-15 upside that opponents now have to game plan against more heavily. This has opened up the Magic offense, as they have averaged 118.8 PPG in their past six games. -- Snellings
22. Sacramento Kings
Record: 8-8
While there has been talk about Kings coach David Joerger being on the hot seat, a source said that his job is safe at the moment. Keep an eye on the relationship between Joeger and rookie big man Marvin Bagley. The No. 2 pick in the draft is coming off the bench and averaging 11.9 points on 50.7 field goal shooting and 5.7 rebounds. -- Spears
23. Miami Heat
Record: 6-10
Through much of the post-LeBron era in Miami, the Heat have had a knack for extracting greater production out of lesser talent, but this season has been a struggle. With the exception of Josh Richardson, the Heat's highest usage players just aren't scoring efficiently. Pair that with a league-average defense, and the Heat find themselves losers of eight of their past 11, ahead of only Washington and the four Lottery Locks in the East. -- Arnovitz
24. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 7-10
The Nets have lost four of their past five games, but they've been against fairly strong competition that included four incumbent playoff teams and a Clippers squad that would be firmly a playoff team out West if the playoffs started today. The Nets have also had to adjust to the loss of team leader Caris LeVert to an ugly foot injury, with D'Angelo Russell stepping up to lead the team with 22.3 PPG and 6.8 APG during the past four contests. -- Snellings
25. Washington Wizards
Record: 5-11
As if the Wizards didn't have enough bad news on this slow start to their season, center Dwight Howard is injured again. Howard aggravated a gluteal injury that kept him out of the first seven games of the season in the second quarter of Sunday's loss to Portland. Howard was averaging 14.1 points and 10 rebounds in his first eight games. -- Spears
26. New York Knicks
Record: 4-13
The Knicks have lost five in a row and seven of their past eight to fall well into the basement of the Atlantic Division. Coach David Fizdale continues to tinker with the lineup, starting as many as three rookies at a time in Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier as they embrace the youth movement and look toward the future. -- Snellings
27. Chicago Bulls
Record: 4-13
The second half of the Bulls' loss Friday night in Milwaukee -- in which they were outscored by 37 -- could be a microcosm for the first month of their season. They often start games with plenty of steam, perhaps catching opponents off guard initially before turning into a pumpkin after halftime, once teams remember they're supposed to crush this young Chicago team. -- Herring
28. Phoenix Suns
Record: 3-12
Suns rookie center Deandre Ayton will face Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid for the first time on Monday in Philadelphia. During camp, Embiid has said the No. 1 pick in the draft was going to "get his ass kicked this year" on ESPN's "The Jump." Ayton has lived up to the hype as he is averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and shooting 60.3 percent from the field. -- Spears
29. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 3-13
We knew there would be weeks like this for the baby Hawks, who have now lost 11 of 12. They fought valiantly at Golden State, but losses like the 45-point whooping at Denver exposed the untested youth and lack of marksmanship on the roster. But some good news materialized out of the loss at Indiana on Saturday -- John Collins is back in action. He looked bouncy as ever scoring 12 points in 12 minutes, and connected with Trae Young on a nifty alley-oop. -- Arnovitz
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 2-12
There are several scheme-related issues in Cleveland, which welcomes LeBron James back into town Wednesday night to kick off the holiday weekend. Among the problems: The Cavs are allowing opponents to shoot an NBA-best 52.4 percent on corner 3s, and a league-high 44.5 percent on wide-open triples. -- Herring