NBA Power Rankings: Suns rise to top spot, while Bulls make a jump

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  • Chicago Bulls
    Chicago Bulls
  • Golden State Warriors
    Golden State Warriors
  • Phoenix Suns
    Phoenix Suns

The NBA community saw its two top teams match up against each other last week as the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors split a pair of games during a couple of highly entertaining battles.

The Suns took the first contest as they eventually extended their winning streak to a franchise-record 18 games before losing to the Warriors on Friday. Phoenix projected to have a difficult time taking both games but look to present a problem for Golden State moving forward.

Elsewhere, the Houston Rockets continued their surprising winning streak while some other teams in the Eastern Conference continue to ascend up the standings. Teams are seemingly beginning to figure things out and that should set up another strong week of action.

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

Oklahoma City Thunder (6-16)

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 26

The Thunder have lost eight in a row, including an NBA record 73-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. Do we really have to say anything else about the Thunder?

For more coverage on the Thunder, visit Thunder Wire

Detroit Pistons (4-18)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 29

The Pistons are tied with the Thunder for the longest losing streak in the NBA, but with a matchup on Monday between the two teams, one of them will find themselves with a rare win. Oddly enough, it still may make for a good watch on NBA TV.

Orlando Magic (5-19)

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 30

Orlando posted a win over the Denver Nuggets last week, and narrowly lost to the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets. They continue a five-game road trip on Monday with Golden State, a matchup that the Warriors are heavily favored in. Next up after the Warriors are the Sacramento Kings and the two Los Angeles teams. We’ll see what this young group is made of soon enough.

New Orleans Pelicans (7-19)

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Last Rank: 28

Just when the Pelicans looked to be catching a break with Zion Williamson progressing toward returning, the former No. 1 pick suffered a setback with a sore foot. The team still remains confident he’ll be able to return soon enough, something they desperately need considering his impact on the court.

Indiana Pacers (9-16)

Malcolm Brogdon
Malcolm Brogdon

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Last Rank: 22

Indiana has lost four consecutive games and appears to be in a real funk right now. Despite the losses, the team still has a positive plus/minus at the moment, perhaps an indication that it can still turn things around at some point.

Houston Rockets (7-16)

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 27

On Nov. 22, the Rockets had the worst record in the league at 1-16 and had lost 15 games in a row. Fast forward to Dec. 6, and the Rockets are now 7-16 with the longest winning streak in the NBA at six games. Remember when there were rumors surrounding Stephen Silas’ job security? Those rumors are seemingly gone now.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Portland Trail Blazers (11-13)

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 19

Neil Olshey was fired, Chauncey Billups has called out his team’s effort and Damian Lillard is reportedly growing frustrated with the direction of the team. On the court, the Trail Blazers‘ only win over their last six games is against the Pistons. The team is struggling and there doesn’t look to be any immediate fix.

San Antonio Spurs (8-13)

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 25

The suddenly hot Spurs reeled off an impressive win over the Warriors on Saturday for their fourth straight victory. The team got huge contributions from Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White in that win as the trio combined for 69 points.

Sacramento Kings (10-14)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 24

The Kings posted back-to-back wins over the Clippers and now have a few days off before hosting the Magic on Wednesday. Sacramento is 4-3 under interim head coach Alvin Gentry and could be turning things around with a new voice leading the way.

Toronto Raptors (11-13)

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 23

The Raptors are riding a two-game winning streak after beating the Milwaukee Bucks (without Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Washington Wizards. The defense looks to be turning around, a good sign for things moving forward.

New York Knicks (11-12)

Julius Randle
Julius Randle

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 16

New York continues its downward descent in the standings after dropping its last three straight games. The team could be looking to move on from Kemba Walker while other lineup changes could be on the way.

Minnesota Timberwolves (11-12)

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 17

The Timberwolves went just 1-2 last week, coming up just short versus the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets. The team still looks to be playing its best basketball of the season and could continue to solidify its place in the Western Conference. We also learned that Anthony Edwards still uses a flip phone, which served as one highlight of the week.

Denver Nuggets (11-11)

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 18

Despite playing very shorthanded as of late, the Nuggets still managed a 2-1 record last week. They have gone 2-1 on their monstrous, seven-game road trip that will conclude with four games this week. A winning record on that trek would be very promising for the group moving forward with all things considered.

Atlanta Hawks (12-12)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 13

The Hawks continue to be a team that is hard to gauge this season. They have been hot and cold and have gone just 1-3 since winning seven straight earlier this month. However, they have dealt with several injuries as of late and have proven to be a tough team to play when fully assembled.

Los Angeles Lakers (12-12)

AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Last Rank: 15

The Lakers cruised to a win over the Kings without LeBron James due to health and safety protocols but lost to Clippers with him back. L.A. has yet to get firing on all cylinders this season but is still hanging around in the Western Conference.

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

Dallas Mavericks (11-11)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 11

Despite finishing with the highest effective field-goal percentage in history (79.5) on Wednesday, the Mavericks have gone just 2-7 over their last nine games. They have a tough matchup on Tuesday versus the Nets and then will begin a three-game road trip. It is shaping up to be a tough week for the Mavericks.

Memphis Grizzlies (13-10)

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 21

The Grizzlies have won four straight games, and have done so without Ja Morant. They recently set the highest margin of victory in a game with a 73-point win over the Thunder and are the first team over the last 25 years to record a streak of four wire-to-wire wins.

Cleveland Cavaliers (13-11)

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 20

The Cavaliers have won four of five games with rookie Evan Mobley back in the lineup. He was named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November after averaging 14.4 points, eight rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots over that span.

Philadelphia 76ers (12-11)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 14

Philadelphia begins the week with a couple of contests on the road versus the short-handed Charlotte Hornets before facing the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors at home. Tobias Harris looks to be nearing a return from a one-game absence, which would be a huge boost for the Sixers heading into the week.

For more coverage on the 76ers, visit Sixers Wire

Boston Celtics (13-11)

Al Horford
Al Horford

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Last Rank: 12

The emergence of Payton Pritchard on Saturday with a season-high 19 points in a win over the Trail Blazers was a positive for the Celtics. The team will be looking to see if he can continue to build upon that. The Celtics continue a five-game road trip this week with contests against the Lakers, Clippers and Suns so they will be tested.

For more coverage on the Celtics, visit Celtics Wire

Charlotte Hornets (14-11)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 9

The Hornets recently lost LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier to health and safety protocols. However, they got 60 points combined from Miles Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr. to lead Charlotte to a win over the Hawks and will need to continue to receive that kind of production without Ball and Rozier.

For more coverage on LaMelo Ball and the Hornets, visit Lonzo Wire

Los Angeles Clippers (12-12)

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Last Rank: 10

L.A. has lost four of five as Paul George has struggled a bit over his last couple of games. They lost twice to the Kings but managed to beat the Lakers, which certainly makes up for a tough week.

Washington Wizards (14-10)

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 5

Washington has lost three of four games with all three coming by double digits. The team has responded well to adversity this season so the recent slide may not be all that concerning. They have a couple of easier games on the schedule this week with the Pacers and Pistons so we’ll see how they bounce back.

Miami Heat (14-10)

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 4

It was a tough week for the Heat after they lost Bam Adebayo for 4-6 weeks with a thumb injury and suffered their worst loss of the season on Wednesday against the Cavaliers. They have also been without Jimmy Butler so things could turn around once he can return.

Milwaukee Bucks (15-9)

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 6

Milwaukee has won nine out of their last 10 games as its eight-game winning streak was snapped on Thursday versus the Raptors without Giannis Antetokounmpo. They bounced back on Saturday with a win over the Heat and have received strong contributions up and down the roster as of late.

Utah Jazz (16-8)

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 7

The Jazz have quietly won four in a row following some strong individual performances from Donovan Mitchell. He is averaging 30 points over their winning streak on 56.3% shooting from the field, including 44.4% from beyond the arc.

Brooklyn Nets (16-7)

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 3

The Nets are coming off of a loss to the Bulls, which further highlighted their inability to beat good teams. Despite that, a team with Kevin Durant and James Harden should still be feared as a team that can make a deep playoff run.

For more coverage on the Nets, visit Nets Wire

Chicago Bulls (16-8)

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 8

Chicago went 3-0 last week, capped off by an impressive win over the Nets. The team continues to get huge contributions from DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine on a nightly basis while others have also stepped up as well. We generally have an idea of what we can expect from teams around the quarter mark of the season, and the Bulls may have shown enough in the early going to prove they are a contender in the Eastern Conference.

For more coverage on Lonzo Ball and the Bulls, visit Lonzo Wire

Golden State Warriors (19-4)

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 2

The Warriors lost their top spot in the rankings following losses to the Suns and Spurs last week. However, they beat the Suns in their second matchup of the week. Stephen Curry has struggled to shoot a little bit as of late but we wouldn’t dare read too much into that. Golden State is still one of the teams to beat in the Western Conference with Curry the head of the snake in the Bay.

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Phoenix Suns (19-4)

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 2

Phoenix took the first matchup of the week over the Warriors in a battle of the top two teams in the NBA and then defeated the Pistons to claim a franchise-record 18th straight win. They saw that streak end on Friday against the Warriors but are firmly on the map now in terms of teams to beat in the league. How about this stat? The Suns are plus-49 in clutch-time situations with Chris Paul on the floor.