NBA Power Rankings: Jazz maintain, while Kings make a big leap

Cody Taylor
·11 min read

Through the first quarter of the season, some teams appear to be separating themselves at the top of the standings while others struggle to stay afloat amidst injuries and health and safety protocols.

From Fred VanVleet dropping a career-high 54 points on Tuesday, to the incredible performances by Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic over the weekend, there were several notable highlights from the past week around the NBA.

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

Check out our latest Rookie Power Rankings

Detroit Pistons (5-18)

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Rank Last Week: 28 Detroit has dropped four straight games and is losing by 15.5 points during that stretch, the worst in the NBA over that span. They needed two overtimes to lose to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, so they have that going for them, at least.

Washington Wizards (5-15)

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Rank Last Week: 30 Washington has lost seven of nine games and is on track to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season. The good news, though, is Bradley Beal continues to say that he doesn't want out. Despite that ray of positivity, the team just isn't right on the court.

Minnesota Timberwolves (6-17)

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Rank Last Week: 29 Minnesota changed up the starting lineup a bit, inserting No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards into the mix. However, the change hasn't necessarily resulted in more wins, but Edwards appears to be on an upward trajectory following the move.

Orlando Magic (9-15)

AP Photo/John Raoux

Rank Last Week: 27 Orlando has lost 13 of 16 games and has just one victory over its last seven contests. However, Nikola Vucevic continues to prove he is All-Star worthy after dropping a career-high 43 points on Friday and the team kindly asks that you vote for him.

Chicago Bulls (9-13)

AP Photo/John Raoux

Rank Last Week: 25 Chicago continues to be a mixed bag on the court this season but rookie Patrick Williams turned in his best two-game stretch on the road versus the Magic. Zach LaVine continues to be a problem for teams and that may very well be enough to keep the Bulls around for the play-in tournament this season. However, the loss of Lauri Markkanen for 2-4 weeks could be huge.

Dallas Mavericks (10-14)

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Rank Last Week: 22 The Mavericks may have won two of three, but the team has simply struggled as of late. They gave up 147 points to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday and needed a near-career performance by Luka Doncic to pull off the win over the Warriors on Saturday. The win could be something that sparks the Mavericks, but we will need to see it to believe it.

Cleveland Cavaliers (10-14)

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Rank Last Week: 18 Cleveland continues to fall in the standings after going just 2-7 over their last nine games. Sure, they had a tough week, facing the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks twice, but the schedule doesn't get any easier as the team begins a five-game West Coast road trip on Monday.

Oklahoma City Thunder (10-12)

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The Thunder had an impressive offensive outburst on Saturday in a win over the Timberwolves, scoring a franchise-record 83 points in the first half alone. Oklahoma City will likely continue to be around .500 this season, but with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading the way, they will be entertaining to watch.

Miami Heat (9-14)

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Rank Last Week: 26 After struggling in the bubble, and at the start of this season, Kendrick Nunn has seemingly returned and is playing at a high level. The Heat recently put him back in the starting lineup and the switch seems to have worked as Miami has won three of five after losing five straight.

New York Knicks (11-14)

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Rank Last Week: 23 The acquisition of Derrick Rose from the Pistons figures to be a big boost to the backcourt. The team has received some uneven play from Elfrid Payton and Austin Rivers, but the arrival of Rose should help things. Hopefully, Rose doesn't impact Immanuel Quickley's role too much as the rookie has been ballin' as of late.

New Orleans Pelicans (10-12)

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Rank Last Week: 24 After struggling mightily, the Pelicans appear to be turning things around. They have won three straight, and five of seven, as Lonzo Ball has caught fire as of late. Perhaps most impressive, they rallied late on Saturday to beat the Memphis Grizzlies after trailing by seven points in the fourth quarter.

Toronto Raptors (10-13)

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Rank Last Week: 19 The Raptors' week was highlighted by a career-high 54 points from Fred VanVleet on Tuesday versus the Magic. He was unconscious from 3-point range, hitting 11-of-14 shots, and had one of the best performances of the season.

Charlotte Hornets (11-13)

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Rank Last Week: 17 Charlotte struggled with the top tier teams of the NBA last week, dropping contests to the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. However, LaMelo Ball produced his first 30-point game on Friday to become the youngest player in NBA history at 19-years-old with at least 30 points and five assists with no turnovers.

Atlanta Hawks (11-12)

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Rank Last Week: 15 Atlanta faced a tough schedule last week and posted a 1-3 record with losses coming against the likes of the Lakers, Mavericks and Jazz. The team also received a blow when it was announced that De'Andre Hunter will miss at least two weeks following a procedure on his injured knee.

Memphis Grizzlies (9-9)

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Rank Last Week: 10 The Grizzlies have had quite an up and down season. The team recently reeled off seven straight wins after a 2-6 start, but has since lost three straight games. Despite all of that, they are still at .500 and may just be an average team at this point.

Indiana Pacers (12-12)

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Rank Last Week: 13 The Pacers have lost five out of six, and appear to be in a bit of a funk. However, the team still boasts a strong offensive unit, ranking 11th in efficiency, and figures to bounce back at some point in the near future, as Myles Turner recently suggested.

Sacramento Kings (12-11)

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Rank Last Week: 21 The Kings have seemingly turned things around and are currently tied for the longest winning streak in the NBA. Perhaps even more impressive, they have beaten the Pelicans, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers during that streak. They have won seven of eight games and appear to be turning things around.

Houston Rockets (11-11)

AP Photo/Brandon Dill

A recent hot stretch has the Rockets hovering at .500, but the team will have to move forward without Christian Wood. The play of Jae'Sean Tate has been something to behold, and the rookie continues to impress each time he steps onto the court.

Golden State Warriors (12-11)

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Rank Last Week: 14 The Warriors posted a 1-2 record last week, but narrowly lost on Saturday to the Mavericks, in which Stephen Curry dropped 57 points while Luka Doncic tied a career-high with 42 points. The group has dealt with injuries as of late, but has shown some promise this year.

Portland Trail Blazers (12-10)

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Rank Last Week: 11 Portland has been battered by injuries, with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and others all missing time last week. Of course, McCollum and Nurkic are expected to be out a little bit longer, leaving Lillard to hold down the fort. One unexpected highlight of the week occurred on Thursday when CJ Elleby produced a career-high 15 points and seven rebounds.

Denver Nuggets (12-10)

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Rank Last Week: 6 Nikola Jokic continues to play some of his best basketball to lead the Nuggets amidst a rash of injuries on the roster. Denver has lost two straight but has proven to be one of the teams to beat when fully assembled this season.

San Antonio Spurs (13-10)

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Rank Last Week: 12 Coming off of back-to-back 30-point efforts, DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs to another strong week. The team posted wins over the Timberwolves and Rockets last week with a pair of games versus the Warriors looming beginning on Monday.

Boston Celtics (12-10)

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Rank Last Week: 9 As teams across the league deal with injuries, Boston is certainly one team that has dealt with players in and out of the lineup. Marcus Smart is out for another week or two while Jaylen Brown is dealing with an injury, but the team received a boost when Payton Pritchard returned following an MCL sprain.

Brooklyn Nets (14-11)

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Rank Last Week: 5 Brooklyn is down Kevin Durant this week following a bizarre sequence of events, and the team experienced an up and down week as a result. The Nets have yet to be fully assembled for a long period of time, so it has been a bit difficult to project just how good they can be. However, when their Big 3 has been available, the team has proven to be one of the elite groups in the Eastern Conference.

Phoenix Suns (13-9)

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Rank Last Week: 8 The Suns have won five of six, and continue a seven-game homestand on Monday versus the Cavaliers. Phoenix has a chance to pile up some wins together, and we could see a glimpse of how good this team can really be during that span.

Milwaukee Bucks (15-8)

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Rank Last Week: 7 Milwaukee has posted four straight wins behind a strong defensive effort. The team ranks in the top 10 in both offense and defense, and has the largest net rating (plus-10) of any team in the league. The Bucks appear to be on the right track now after a couple questionable performances earlier this season.

Los Angeles Clippers (17-8)

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Rank Last Week: 2 Paul George has missed two straight games and the Clippers have struggled as a result. The Clippers' offense has stalled out a bit without George, and the defense desperately needs Patrick Beverley back. The good news is George is considered to be day-to-day and could return soon.

Philadelphia 76ers (17-7)

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Rank Last Week: 4 Philadelphia was able to slow down James Harden a bit, and that effort helped the team post an impressive win over the Nets. Based on that performance, we are just going to throw out the result of the previous game, in which they lost to an undermanned Trail Blazers team.

Los Angeles Lakers (18-6)

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Rank Last Week: 2 With the recent GOAT talk centered on Tom Brady after winning his seventh Super Bowl, how about the play of LeBron James? The four-time NBA champion is averaging 29.1 points, 8.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds over his last seven games for the Lakers, who have won four straight. James continues to prove that he is simply not human, and that has resulted in the Lakers off to another great start this season.

Utah Jazz (19-5)

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Rank Last Week: 1 The Jazz continue to play elite basketball after going 4-0 last week. They have only lost three times in 2021 and have won 15 out of their last 16 games. If they are not hitting virtually every 3-pointer, it's Donovan Mitchell playing out of his mind or seemingly another player stepping up each night. That formula has been tough to beat this season, and the Jazz could be a serious challenger in the West this season.