NBA Power Rankings: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton powering surging Suns

The NBA is a quarter of the way through the 2022-23 season as teams and players alike settle in after a competitive slate of games over the first two months.

The first 20-22 games of the season provide a great opportunity for teams to solidify themselves on the court. The sample size is large enough to have a better understanding of how a given team will likely perform this season and what we can expect to see from them.

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.

Detroit Pistons (5-17)

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 30

The Pistons picked up a couple of impressive wins last week over the Nuggets and Jazz on the road. Jaden Ivey continues to perform at a high level and recently became the fifth-fastest rookie in team history to reach 300 career points (19 games).

San Antonio Spurs (6-15)

Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 25

The Spurs have gone just 1-13 since starting off 5-2 and have lost eight straight games. They are last in the NBA in defense since Nov. 2 and have a net rating of minus-15 over that span. The tanking efforts appear to be well on track now.

Orlando Magic (5-15)

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 27

The Magic have lost four straight, but help looks to be on the way. Paolo Banchero returned on Friday after a seven-game absence due to a sprained left ankle. Moe Wagner made his season debut on Friday after dealing with a foot injury and Markelle Fultz appears to be nearing a return. He has yet to play this season due to a toe fracture.

Houston Rockets (5-14)

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Last Rank: 29

Houston has gone 3-2 over its last five games with two straight wins coming over Atlanta and Oklahoma City. Jalen Green recently put up his fourth 30-point game of the season and looks to be well on track to surpass last season’s total of eight such games.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Charlotte Hornets (6-14)

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 28

The Hornets have won two straight and could be turning things around. They had lost 11 out of 12 games prior to this stretch and looked to be dead in the water. The group has a tough upcoming slate (at Boston, vs. Washington, vs. Milwaukee) so we’ll see if they can keep it going.

Chicago Bulls (8-11)

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Last Rank: 26

Chicago picked up a couple of strong wins over Boston and Milwaukee last week. Just when things looked to be turning around, though, they lost to the Thunder in overtime on Friday. The Thunder are an improved team from last season, but the Bulls have yet to show any sort of consistency this year and remain one of the biggest question marks in the East. They continue a six-game road trip on Monday in Utah.

For more coverage on the Bulls, visit Bulls Wire

Oklahoma City Thunder (8-12)

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Last Rank: 22

The Thunder have dropped four out of their last five games. However, two of those losses were in overtime as the team has struggled to close out teams late. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is performing like an All-Star and has led the Thunder in scoring in all but three games this season. He has scored at least 30 points in four straight games and is averaging a career-high 31.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

For more coverage on the Thunder, visit Thunder Wire

New York Knicks (9-11)

Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 21

The Knicks have lost four out of their last five games to fall two games below .500 for the first time this season. The offense is ranked 15th in the NBA and the defense is 27th to this point. The team has largely been average through the first quarter of the season so we’ll see if things can change.

Miami Heat (10-11)

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Last Rank: 23

The Heat appear to be getting healthier and have played much better of late. Tyler Herro is back after an eight-game absence and has helped the Heat win three straight games. Kyle Lowry is also performing at a high level and recently dropped 24 points in the first half on Wednesday in a win over the Wizards. It was the most points by Lowry in any half of his career.

Los Angeles Lakers (7-11)

Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 24

LeBron James returned after a five-game absence and helped the Lakers to a couple of wins over the Spurs. He put up 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists on Friday and followed that up with 39 points and 11 rebounds the next night. The Lakers have now won five out of six games and appear to be turning things around after a rough start.

For more coverage on LeBron and the Lakers, visit LeBron Wire

Washington Wizards (10-10)

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 18

Bradley Beal has been in and out of the lineup and the Wizards have dropped three straight. The group has proven to be dangerous when healthy so there should be some optimism moving forward once everyone can get on the court.

Toronto Raptors (10-9)

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 19

Toronto has gone 3-2 over its last five games and is coming off a win over Dallas. Injuries continue to plague the group as several key players have all missed time to start the year. They are staying afloat in the meantime and are remarkably still seventh in the East.

Brooklyn Nets (10-11)

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 20

Ben Simmons may have lost his long-awaited return to Philly last week, but the three-time All-Star looks to be in a groove on the court. He is returning to form and the Nets look to be turning things around. Since parting ways with Steve Nash, the Nets are ninth in offense and eighth in defense.

For more coverage on the Nets, visit Nets Wire

Sacramento Kings (10-8)

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 17

The Kings enter play on Monday having lost two in a row since their seven-game win streak was snapped on Wednesday in Atlanta. They briefly had the longest active winning streak in the NBA and their longest since November 2004. The offense continues to be among the bright spots as the team is second in rating (116.0), second in points per game (119.1), third in field-goal percentage (49.1) and fifth in 3s per game (13.8).

Atlanta Hawks (11-9)

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 14

The Hawks beat the Kings on Wednesday to snap their seven-game win streak but have since lost two straight. Trae Young continues to perform at a high level, though, after recently dropping a season-high 44 points in a loss to the Rockets.

Minnesota Timberwolves (10-10)

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 16

The Timberwolves recently reeled off a five-game win streak before losing two straight. Anthony Edwards is performing at a high level after putting up his ninth 25-point game of the season on Sunday in a loss to the Warriors. Minnesota is 10-10 after 20 games, but the team appears to be trending upward after its recent run.

Los Angeles Clippers (12-9)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 13

The Clippers are staying above .500 for the time being as they look to get healthier on the court. They will be tested with six out of their next seven games away from LA, including a four-game East Coast road trip beginning on Dec. 5 in Charlotte.

Dallas Mavericks (9-10)

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 9

The Mavs have dropped five out of their last six games, including four straight. Luka Doncic is performing at a high level, but hasn’t had consistent help from his teammates. Jason Kidd recently said the team often talks about potential lineup changes and it is likely that one needs to be made. Christian Wood should be a candidate to join the starting lineup.

New Orleans Pelicans (11-8)

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 15

New Orleans is 6-4 over its last 10 games after losing to Memphis on Friday. Zion Williamson recently put up his best game of the season after producing 32 points and 11 rebounds in a win over the Spurs as the former top pick looks to be in a groove of late.

Indiana Pacers (11-8)

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 12

The Pacers have been one of the top teams in the East in the early going. They kicked off their seven-game road trip in LA on Sunday with a loss to the Clippers. They will see the Lakers on Monday and then go to Sacramento, Utah and Portland this week. We should know a lot more about this team based on how it performs on that trek.

Philadelphia 76ers (11-9)

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 11

The Sixers continued their recent surge with two wins over the Magic over the weekend in Orlando without Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. The team has gotten strong contributions from others on the roster without those players, including Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton. He is averaging 17 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.8 steals over his last five games.

For more coverage on the 76ers, visit Sixers Wire

Portland Trail Blazers (11-9)

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 6

The Trail Blazers have lost six out of their last eight games as the injuries begin to mount. One positive, though, has been the play of Jerami Grant. He dropped a career-high 44 points on Friday to lead Portland to an overtime win over New York.

Golden State Warriors (11-10)

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 10

The Warriors are above .500 for the first time since Oct. 27 after defeating the Timberwolves on Sunday. Klay Thompson is playing like Klay Thompson and is averaging 24 points and three rebounds on 56% shooting from 3-point range over his last five games.

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Utah Jazz (12-10)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 2

The once red-hot Jazz are suddenly struggling a bit after losing four in a row. The group has struggled in several areas of the game and had perhaps its worst performance of the season on Wednesday in a loss to Detroit. They will look to get back on track as they start a six-game homestand on Monday versus Chicago.

Denver Nuggets (12-7)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 7

The Nuggets got Nikola Jokic back after a stint in the health and safety protocol. He quickly made his presence felt after totaling 70 points over his first two games back. The team has also gotten strong contributions from Bruce Brown and Vlatko Cancar. Brown recorded his first career triple-double on Wednesday. He became the first Nuggets player other than Jokic to record a triple-double since Andre Iguodala in April 2013. Cancar had a career-high 19 points on Wednesday in a win over the Thunder.

Cleveland Cavaliers (13-7)

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Last Rank: 8

Since losing five straight, Cleveland has gone 5-1 to jump to third in the East. That skid was likely a fluke as the team continues to be among the best in the league on both sides of the ball. Entering play on Monday, the Cavaliers are seventh in offensive rating (114.8) and third in defensive rating (108.2). When their Big 3 of Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen plays well, the Cavs are tough to beat.

Memphis Grizzlies (12-8)

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 5

We are convinced that Ja Morant is superhuman. He was initially thought to miss some time due to an ankle injury, but returned to play after only a one-game absence. He put up 34 points in his first game back and registered his fifth career triple-double two games later to lead the Grizzlies to a win over the Knicks on Sunday. With Morant leading the way, Memphis seemingly always has a chance to win.

Milwaukee Bucks (14-5)

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 4

Giannis Antetokounmpo has scored at least 30 points in four straight games and the Bucks have won four out of their last six games. They hit a bit of a rough stretch after starting 9-0 but look to be back on track after some injuries.

Phoenix Suns (13-6)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 3

The Suns have won four straight games after knocking off the Jazz on Saturday and have claimed first place in the Western Conference. Devin Booker has scored in double figures in every game this season and is averaging 23.3 points, 6.8 assists and five rebounds over their winning streak.

Deandre Ayton has put up five straight double-doubles and registered his third career 20-20 game on Saturday with a season-high 29 points and 21 rebounds in a win over the Jazz. With a relatively easy schedule this week (at Sacramento, vs. Chicago, vs. Houston, at San Antonio), they could add to their win streak.

Boston Celtics (16-4)

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Last Rank: 1

The Celtics have lost just one game since Nov. 2 and are emerging as the top team in the league. Boston has the best offense in the league and has a plus-10.9 net rating over that span. Jaylen Brown is stepping up in a major way for the Cs. He is averaging 26.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists over his last 10 games.

For more coverage on the Celtics, visit Celtics Wire

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire