Arizona Republic's NBA power rankings: Suns separate from pack, but where does the list shake up?

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The Suns aren't running away from it.

"The big goal is to win a championship," Suns guard Cameron Payne said.

If anything, they're speaking it into existence.

"Like JaVale (McGee) always say, 'We're the best team in the world,'" Suns big Bismack Biyombo said. "So we've got to stay at it."

The Suns continue to extend their lead over the rest of the league as they were 3½ games ahead of Golden State for the NBA's best record going into Sunday's games. So their place was secure atop The Republic's Power Rankings as they've won six in a row, but there is shakeup below them.

More: Arizona Republic's NBA power rankings: Suns, Warriors still 1-2, but Grizzlies back in Top 5

Jan 20, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) during the first half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) during the first half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

1. Phoenix Suns (36-9, Last week 1st)

Devin Booker finally cooled off after averaging 35.2 points during a four-game stretch.

He managed just 11 in Saturday's 113-103 win over Indiana, but Mikal Bridges (23) and Biyombo (21) each reached season-highs. Biyombo did so in tying a career high to go along with 13 rebounds and five assists.

The Suns are expected to have a much tougher time in back-to-back games against Utah with the first one being Monday at home. The rematch is Wednesday in Utah.

They haven't faced each other this season, but this could be a preview of the Western Conference semifinals as the Jazz are fourth in the West.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry celebrates his game-winning buzzer-beater against the Houston Rockets.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry celebrates his game-winning buzzer-beater against the Houston Rockets.

2. Golden State Warriors (33-13, Last week 2nd)

Hard to believe Stephen Curry hit his first career buzzer-beating game winner last week.

Shouldn't have required that to top the Rockets (14-33), who have the worst record in the West, but the Warriors will take it.

Golden State was 27-6 after its Christmas win in Phoenix. The Warriors have gone 6-7 since.

They're trying blend Klay Thompson back in, still waiting on Draymond Green to return from injury, but clearly aren't playing as well as they were before the holiday season.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant finishes off a 360-degree layup against the Chicago Bulls at FedExForum on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant finishes off a 360-degree layup against the Chicago Bulls at FedExForum on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (32-16, Last week 3rd)

Milwaukee and Brooklyn are probably better teams when full strength.

The Bucks showed it in a 126-114 victory with their Big 3 of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday on the floor, but Memphis is 8-2 in its last 10 games going in Sunday's matchup at Dallas.

Ja Morant looks like he'll not only make his All-Star debut, but start in next month's game in Cleveland. Averaging career-highs in points (25.2), field goal percentage (48.9%), 3-point percentage (35.7%) and rebounds (5.8) Morant has truly arrived.

Being a point guard, Morant needs to lift that free throw percentage up to 80%, but he's at 77.6% and has the Grizzlies rolling.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

4. Brooklyn Nets (28-16, Last week, Next 5)

The Nets have made their way back atop the Eastern Conference without Kevin Durant, who is expected to miss considerable time after spraining his left medial collateral ligament Jan. 15 against the Pelicans.

They lost their next game without him at Cleveland, but won the next two at Washington and at San Antonio with Kyrie Irving averaging 27 points in this three-game road stretch.

With Durant out, any game Irving can play, even if it's just on the road, is huge, but will the Nets superstar guard ever get vaccinated to help Brooklyn win at home, too?

This story is as big, if not bigger, than Durant's injury because when the playoffs come, not having Irving for home games could be the difference between winning and losing a championship for Brooklyn.

Jan 22, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) drives against Sacramento Kings guard Terence Davis (3) in the first quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) drives against Sacramento Kings guard Terence Davis (3) in the first quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

5. Milwaukee Bucks (30-19, Last week, Next 5)

Yes, they lost two in a row to the Raptors and Hawks, but their last three wins have been against Golden State, Memphis and Chicago.

Welcome back to the Top 5, Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo is an MVP candidate, but Khris Middleton is a difference maker, too, for the Bucks.

Averaging 23.5 points in January, Middleton has connected on 45.7% of his 3s this month. The Bucks have a huge game coming up Wednesday against the Cavaliers, who are 6-1 in their last seven games with wins over Utah and Brooklyn.

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Next 5

Chicago Bulls (28-16) – The Bulls have gone 1-3 in their last four games without Zach LaVine, who suffered a knee injury early in a blowout loss to Golden State. DeMar DeRozan is playing great, but LaVine has been big part of Chicago's resurgence.

Utah Jazz (30-16) – Yes, the Rockets are probably better than their record suggested as they just pushed Golden State to the brink before losing, but Utah fell to them at home. The Jazz have a chance to show-and-prove in back-to-back games this week versus Phoenix.

Miami Heat (29-17) – The Heat are 6-2 in their last eight games, but two of the wins came against the disappointing Atlanta Hawks, who just beat them Friday. Bam Adebayo is back after missing 22 games with a thumb right injury. Heat went 14-8 without him.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Evan Mobley dunks the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Evan Mobley dunks the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Cavaliers (28-19) – They're fifth in the East, but just two games behind conference leader Brooklyn going into Sunday's games. Cleveland continues to win with defense. The Cavs are third in defensive rating behind Golden State and Phoenix.

Philadelphia 76ers (26-19) – Love to see Tyrese Maxey trying to go coast-to-coast to win Friday's game at the buzzer over the Clippers, but it should've never came down to that. Philadelphia was up eight with under five minutes left before losing by a point.

One last thing

Phoenix is on its way to having the league's best record going into the All-Star break, which would mean Monty Williams would coach in his first All-Star game.

However, it doesn't appear the Suns will have a starter in the game.

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams yells to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams yells to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Booker was fifth in the latest fan voting for the West starting backcourt, Chris Paul was seventh while Deandre Ayton was 10th in the West frontcourt starter voting.

The starters will be announced Thursday on TNT.

Unless something really crazy happens with the players and media voting, Curry and Morant will land the two top spots in the backcourt as they were 1-2 in the fan voting that makes up 50% of the selection process.

The current players and media account for 25% each.

So Phoenix likely will have the NBA's best record, but not a starter in the All-Star game.

That could provide extra fuel for Suns moving forward.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: NBA power rankings: Suns separating from pack, Nets, Bucks back in Top 5