NBA Power Rankings: Bulls a top-five team heading into Christmas

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NBA Power Rankings: Bulls a top-five team heading into Christmas originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

There is a full-fledged COVID-19 outbreak overwhelming the NBA right now, sending many stars into health and safety protocols and removing enough players from active rosters to postpone several games. A majority of teams have been impacted by the virus over the last week, leading to shorthanded units and odd results. Even with the outbreak, some teams have been able to overcome the adversity and strengthen their position in the standings.

Here is the latest NBA Power Rankings:

30. Detroit Pistons: The Pistons may have won their game Sunday against the Miami Heat, but they had lost 14 in a row before that. The best news for Detroit is No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham has been playing some inspired and efficient basketball of late, averaging over 20 points per game in the last nine contests. He is starting to show just why he was deserving of that top selection.

29. Orlando Magic: After winning one of their last 15 games, the Magic beat the severely depleted Nets. First-round pick Franz Wagner continues to show he not only has a bright future but also the ability to be productive in the present, averaging nearly 15 points, five rebounds and three assists per game.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is starting to become one of the most clutch players in the NBA, making multiple game-tying or game-winning shots for the Thunder. Winners of three of their last six games, OKC can at the very least steal some games with SGA playing like he is, averaging nearly 22 points per game, with five rebounds and five assists.

27. New Orleans Pelicans: The news of another setback in Zion Williamson's recovery is enough to sink the Pelicans near the bottom of the rankings, despite winning three of their last four games. Williamson's availability is the difference between the Pels being relevant or being sellers at the deadline. All indications are pointing towards the latter.

26. Houston Rockets: After surprising the league by winning seven games in a row, the Rockets have returned to Earth, dropping four of their last six. Unless the Rockets are able to hit their stride again, there is a good chance their bigger-name players like Christian Wood and Eric Gordon could be on the move.

25. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs have started to form some chemistry, but have yet to really find any consistency. After a surprising road win over the red-hot Utah Jazz, the Spurs then lost to the struggling Kings. Before the loss to the Kings, guard Derrick White had stepped up his game, averaging nearly 20 points per game over the last month.

24. Sacramento Kings: It has been an up-and-down season for Buddy Hield, but he has found his sharpshooting stroke over his last five games, making at least four triples in each contest. He ended the week making seven of his nine attempts from deep against the Spurs, dropping 29 points and leading the Kings to a victory. The better he plays, the higher his value will be on the trade market should the Kings decide to acquire future assets and punt on the season.

23. Indiana Pacers: Rumors are swirling around the Pacers, with reports suggesting Indianapolis is willing to move some of its top players, including Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. However, the Pacers have won four of their last six games, so there is a chance Indiana finds a groove and decides that it is worth giving the current roster a shot to make some noise the rest of the year.

22. Portland Trail Blazers: A lung injury to CJ McCollum has put the Blazers in a difficult situation, but Damian Lillard is finally starting to look like his old self, averaging nearly 30 points per game over the last five contests. Portland knows it does not have a roster that can compete in the Western Conference, so it will look to upgrade around Lillard in any way it can.

21. New York Knicks: The most exciting development of the last week for the Knicks was Steph Curry setting the all-time 3-point record at Madison Square Garden. Otherwise, the Knicks have lost five of their last six games, and are now hoping that high-priced veteran guard Kemba Walker, who dropped 29 points in a loss to the Celtics, can help spark their team after being removed from the rotation.

20. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks have been consistently inconsistent this season. They have lost five of their last seven despite Trae Young dropping nearly 31 points per game in the last 12 contests. Injuries to some of their rotation have hampered them a bit, but their inability to close games or lock-in on defense every night is what has sent them to a sub-.500 record.

19. Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet is putting together the best individual season of his career. The 6-foot-1 guard is averaging 20 points per game and shooting nearly 40 percent from deep. VanVleet also has been pulling down five rebounds and dishing out nearly seven assists per game, filling up the stat sheet each and every night.

18. Dallas Mavericks: Star point guard Luka Doncic has only played in 21 of the Mavericks' 29 games, which has limited the Mavs' ability to find any cohesion. After making nearly 40 percent of his shots from deep in the last two seasons, Tim Hardaway Jr. has not been able to find his normal shooting stroke, making just 33 percent of his looks from long range.

17. Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets are finally healthy again after getting LaMelo Ball back in the lineup. However, the team has lost five of their last seven and it may take some time before the Hornets can regain the offensive chemistry they had earlier in the season. At .500, they still have a good shot of hanging in the playoff or play-in mix once they find their groove.

16. Boston Celtics: The return of Jaylen Brown should elevate the Celtics. Without Brown for most of December, fellow star Jayson Tatum had to put up 31 points per game to carry Boston, but the Celtics have only won four of those nine games.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers are simply underperforming this season. Yes, they have been without Ben Simmons, but they have enough talent around perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid to be in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. That talent includes guards Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey who have formed a strong backcourt for the Sixers.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves: Minnesota has won four games in a row and would be in the Western Conference play-in tournament if the season ended today. Karl-Anthony Towns has been on a tear for a few weeks now and is putting up a fantastic 42 percent shooting from deep.

13. Washington Wizards: After a surprising start to the season that made many believe the Wizards were for real, Bradley Beal and Co. have fallen on hard times, winning just two of their last nine games. Beal has mostly put up strong numbers across the board, but he has struggled from deep, making a subpar 28 percent of his shots from long range.

12. Los Angeles Lakers: It seemed as if the Lakers were starting to actually find their groove, but now an MCL injury will keep Anthony Davis sidelined for at least the next four weeks. It has been a feel-good story seeing veteran guard Isaiah Thomas return to the league. He has scored 19 and 13 points respectively in his two games back thus far.

11. Denver Nuggets: Denver has won three of its last four games, and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic continues to play at an elite level. The big man is putting up some historic numbers that are better than last season. If the Nuggets can overcome their myriad of injuries and rise up in the standings, then you can surely expect Jokic to be an MVP finalist by season's end.

10. Los Angeles Clippers: Paul George's absence has hindered the Clippers as they have lost two in a row after going on a four-game win streak. But even without George, the Clippers are getting contributions from many different role players, including Luke Kennard, who is lighting it up from deep by shooting 46 percent from 3 point range.

9.  Miami Heat: Losing Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for an extended period has obviously slowed down the Heat, but Miami's depth has proven to be a strength as the team has stayed afloat despite the injuries. One major addition to the team this season has been veteran P.J. Tucker, who has shot 46 percent from deep to go with his strong defense.

8. Milwaukee Bucks: Multiple absences to the big-name players has been the only thing holding back the Bucks from being near the top of the East. Milwaukee will be getting a big boost soon with the return of Donte DiVincenzo, who has missed all of this season since suffering an ankle injury in last season's playoffs. The 6-foot-4 guard scored over 10 points per game last season and shot 38 percent from deep.

7. Memphis Grizzlies: Somehow the loss of Ja Morant has actually improved the Grizzlies, and it mostly starts on defense. The Grizz have won 10 of their last 12 games, led by second-year guard Desmond Bane and young power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. Obviously Memphis is better off with a healthy Morant, but perhaps they have found the defensive chemistry they need without him and have benefitted from his absence in the long term.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers: So it is starting to look like the Cavaliers are not a fluke. Cleveland has won six in a row behind a strong defensive performance, passion and grit. The Cavs have been led offensively by 21-year-old guard Darius Garland, who is averaging 19 points per game on a solid 48 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from long range.

5. Chicago Bulls: A lot of the attention for the Bulls rightly goes to DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, however, do not overlook how good Lonzo Ball has been this season. The 24-year-old guard is playing well on both sides of the court, and shooting a highly efficient 42 percent from deep as well.

4. Utah Jazz: The Jazz have dropped two games in a row after winning eight straight. Despite the losses, the Jazz lead the NBA in points per game, point differential and field goal percentage. Just like last season, you can expect the Jazz to finish near or at the top of the Western Conference by the end of the regular season.

3. Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant is playing some incredible basketball this season, leading an undermanned Nets squad to the best record in the East. In the month of December, Durant has averaged over 33 points per game, with nine rebounds and seven assists, pushing himself to the very top of the early MVP race.

2. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are pleased after winning three games on their five-game road trip, and now head home back to Chase Center where new 3-point king Steph Curry will be able to celebrate his historic achievement in front of the home crowd. While Klay Thompson reportedly will not return in the month of December, the Warriors are sitting pretty near the top of the West, allowing extra time for the sharpshooter to get into NBA game shape.

1. Phoenix Suns: After missing seven games due to a hamstring injury, Devin Booker returned on Sunday in a blowout win over the Hornets. Even without their budding star, the Suns won five of the seven games in his absence and currently hold the best record in the NBA. Phoenix has been excellent on both sides of the ball this season, and looks like they are well-positioned to make a deep postseason run again.