NBA Power Rankings: Celtics remain on top; Bucks getting healthier

The NBA season is in full swing as players and teams alike start to settle in on the court with the calendar flipping over to December after an exciting start to the year.

The elite teams are flexing their muscles as they emerge through the first quarter of the season. As a result, some clubs are beginning to separate themselves in the standings. Elsewhere, others are starting to figure things out after slow starts.

To make further sense of it all, Rookie Wire took a look at the NBA and ranked each team from worst to first. We come back each week and provide our latest assessment of the best teams and those that are rising.

San Antonio Spurs (6-18)

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 29

The Spurs‘ losing streak has reached 11 games. The low point of the week was likely on Wednesday when they blew a 20-point lead to the Thunder and were outscored 59-34 in the second half. The team is also closing in on setting the franchise record for the longest losing streak of 13 games during the 1988-89 season. In other words, the tanking efforts for Victor Wembanyama are well on track.

Orlando Magic (5-19)

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 28

The Magic enter play on Monday having lost eight straight games, their longest losing streak of the season. The team begins a five-game homestand on Monday with the Bucks and will be looking to get back on track in the friendly confines of Amway Center.

Detroit Pistons (6-19)

Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Last Rank: 30

The Pistons picked up a surprising win in overtime over the Mavericks on Thursday. But, other than that, they have struggled after losing four out of their last five games.

Houston Rockets (6-17)

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Last Rank: 27

Houston has gone 3-3 over its last six games and recently defeated the Suns by one point on Friday. There is more good news: Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. appears to be snapping out of a cold streak to start the season. He is averaging 13.2 points and seven rebounds on 41.9% shooting from 3-point range over his last 10 games.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Charlotte Hornets (7-16)

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 26

If you overlook the Hornets‘ recent 35-point loss to the Celtics, they look to be turning things around a bit. They have gone 3-2 over their last five games and are staying afloat without LaMelo Bell. The team has a tough upcoming road this week (vs. Clippers, at Nets, vs. Knicks, at Sixers) so we’ll see if they can keep it going.

Chicago Bulls (9-14)

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 25

The Bulls have lost three straight games and return home after going 2-4 on their recent six-game road trip. Despite that stretch, DeMar DeRozan is playing like an All-Star and Zach LaVine is coming off a season-high 41-point performance on Sunday. Something has to give.

For more coverage on the Bulls, visit Bulls Wire

New York Knicks (11-13)

Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 23

The Knicks are 3-9 over their last nine games. New York continues to remain a mystery on the court but is coming off a win over the Cavaliers on Sunday. The team has picked up some impressive wins but hasn’t been able to gain any real momentum. They have a relatively easy schedule coming up (vs. Hawks, at Hornets, vs. Kings) so we’ll see if they can take advantage.

Washington Wizards (11-13)

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 20

The Wizards have gone just 1-6 since beating the Hornets on Nov. 20 to move three games above .500. However, Kristaps Porzingis is playing arguably the best basketball of his career. He had a career-high 41 points last Monday in a win over the Timberwolves and is averaging 27.4 points and 9.4 rebounds over his last five games.

Oklahoma City Thunder (10-13)

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 24

Oklahoma City has won two straight games and is 3-2 over its last five games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has produced six straight 30-point games as the team has also gotten strong contributions from rookie Jalen Williams of late. He put up a career-high 27 points on Wednesday in a win over the Spurs.

For more coverage on the Thunder, visit Thunder Wire

Miami Heat (11-12)

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 22

After dealing with a lengthy injury report in November, the Heat are seemingly back at full strength. They posted an overtime win over the Celtics on Friday as four starters scored at least 20 points. Miami has won four of five games and are looking to be turning things around.

Toronto Raptors (12-11)

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 19

The Raptors welcomed back Pascal Siakam after a 10-game absence last week. He is averaging 22.8 points, eight rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals in four games since returning as the Raptors are 2-2 in those games. His addition to the lineup will be much-needed as the Raptors look to get things going.

Los Angeles Lakers (10-12)

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 21

The Lakers are suddenly climbing up the standings after going 8-2 over their last 10 games. Anthony Davis is on an absolute tear after dropping a season-high 55 points and 17 rebounds on Sunday for their third straight win. He was named the Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 37.8 points, 13 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in four games.

For more coverage on the Lakers, visit LeBron Wire

Minnesota Timberwolves (11-12)

Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 15

The Timberwolves went just 1-2 last week and lost Karl-Anthony Towns to a right calf strain. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. The team will need to rely on others to step up, including Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and others.

Indiana Pacers (12-11)

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 11

The Pacers have gone 2-5 since starting the year 10-6. They have gone 1-4 on their current seven-game road trip with three straight losses. However, the highlight of the week certainly came on Monday after rookie Andrew Nembhard hit a buzzer-beating game-winner over the Lakers. The Pacers overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to win that one.

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Atlanta Hawks (13-10)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 16

The Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak on Wednesday with a dominating performance over the Magic. They followed that up with a win over the Nuggets without Trae Young, who reportedly sat out due to a spat with head coach Nate McMillan. Young downplayed the incident, but this situation could be worth monitoring as the season progresses.

Brooklyn Nets (13-12)

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 18

Kevin Durant was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after leading the Nets to a 3-1 record. He dropped a season-high 45 points on Monday in a win over the Magic and averaged 33 points and seven rebounds on the week. The Nets are 7-3 over their last 10 games.

For more coverage on the Nets, visit Nets Wire

Los Angeles Clippers (13-11)

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 14

The Clippers have lost two straight after falling to the Kings on Saturday. The team is once again playing without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as the two players continue to deal with injuries. The collective basketball community is still not quite sure how good the Clippers can be this season, but it is clear they can be dangerous when fully assembled.

Sacramento Kings (13-9)

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 17

After losing three straight following their seven-game win streak, the Kings have been back in the win column three straight times. They are fifth in the Western Conference but will begin a six-game road trip in Milwaukee on Wednesday. The team is 5-5 on the road so we’ll see if they can keep its strong play away from Sacramento going.

Dallas Mavericks (11-11)

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 13

The Mavericks picked up their first road win since Oct. 27 on Saturday versus the Knicks. Luka Doncic continues to put up insane numbers on a nightly basis, including a 41-point triple-double on Tuesday in a win over the Warriors. The team is still looking to gain some consistency but still projects to be one of the top teams in the West.

Portland Trail Blazers (13-11)

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 9

The Trail Blazers have gone 4-7 since starting out 10-4 this season, but may be on the verge of turning things around. They have won two straight after knocking off the Jazz and Pacers over the weekend. Anfernee Simons erupted for a career-high 45 points in that win over the Jazz.

Philadelphia 76ers (12-11)

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 10

The Sixers got Joel Embiid back last week and are expected to have James Harden return as early as Monday. The team has managed to weather the storm without its top two players and could begin to go on a bit of a run now that they are nearing full strength.

For more coverage on the 76ers, visit Sixers Wire

Utah Jazz (14-12)

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 7

The Jazz snapped a five-game losing streak on Wednesday and appear to be playing better with several players stepping up of late. On Friday, it was rookie Walker Kessler. The 7-footer recorded a career-high 20 points and 11 rebounds on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the field.

Golden State Warriors (13-11)

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 8

Golden State is two games above .500 for the first time this season. The team is 6-2 since Nov. 7 and is seventh in the NBA in offense and 12th in defense over that span. They have seemingly put a slow start behind them as the group looks to be clicking now.

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

New Orleans Pelicans (15-8)

Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 12

The Pelicans continue their hot run of late after knocking off the Nuggets on Sunday for their fourth-straight win. Jose Alvarado erupted for a career-high 38 points with eight 3-pointers in that win as New Orleans is second in the Western Conference.

Denver Nuggets (14-9)

Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 6

Denver has lost two straight but remains third in the Western Conference. They have remained one of the top teams in the conference but have had some questionable losses at times. With seven out of their next nine games at home, the Nuggets could go on a bit of a run and capitalize on their schedule.

Memphis Grizzlies (14-9)

Allison Farrand-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 4

The Grizzlies, led by Ja Morant, are perhaps the most exciting team in the NBA — or at least one of them. Morant is posting 28.3 points, 8.3 assists, 6.5 rebounds and one steal over his last six games as the Grizzlies are 4-2 over that span.

Cleveland Cavaliers (15-9)

Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 5

Armed with the top defense in the league, the Cavaliers have posted a 7-3 record over their last 10 games. They are maintaining ground near the top of the standings and are emerging as one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference.

Milwaukee Bucks (16-6)

Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Last Rank: 3

The Bucks are in second place in the Eastern Conference and have won four out of their last five games after defeating the Hornets on Saturday. Khris Middleton made his season debut on Friday with 17 points and seven assists in a loss to the Lakers. The team will continue to bring him along slowly but the Bucks just got a little bit better with their All-Star back in the lineup.

Phoenix Suns (16-7)

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 2

Devin Booker, who was named the Western Conference Player of the Month, is on a tear for the Suns. He is averaging 36.6 points, 6.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds over his last six games with a 51-point outing and two 40-point games in that span. They are 8-2 over their last 10 games and first in the Western Conference. Phoenix looks to be playing well without Chris Paul.

Boston Celtics (19-5)

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 1

The Celtics remain the best team in the NBA and were recently recognized, as a result. Jayson Tatum was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October and November and interim head coach Joe Mazzulla was named Coach of the Month. Tatum continues to be the go-to player for the Celtics but the team is getting great contributions down the roster. In other words, the Celtics look great right now.

For more coverage on the Celtics, visit Celtics Wire

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire