NBA Power Rankings

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Last update: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

By Mike Elworth. Follow Mike @MikeElworth24. For site updates follow @walterfootball.

    Now a third into the season, we are seeing who is likely to make the playoffs and who the contenders are. Really this should only be a four-team power ranking, as I can only see the Spurs, Cavaliers, Warriors or Thunder winning the title. Barring injury it will be Cleveland against one of those three West teams playing for a title.

  1. Golden State Warriors 37-4. Previous Rank: 1
    The record is ridiculous, but Stephen Curry's leg is a bit troublesome, and if the Warriors lose him, they have no chance at a title. However, I think we can now say that Golden State's big three of Curry-Draymond Green-Klay Thompson is just as excellent as the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh trio that won the East four straight seasons. The Warriors have three of the NBA's best players, but they are all in their mid-20s, meaning that the team will be contenders for at least the next five seasons. Golden State could have a dynasty in the Bay.

  2. San Antonio Spurs: 36-6. Previous Rank: 2
    I seriously considered the Spurs for No. 1, as they are playing just as well as the Warriors, but 36-6 is still, well 36-6. Regardless, the Spurs are still my pick to win the title, as Gregg Popovich has them with the NBA's best defense and their frontcourt of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan cannot be guarded. San Antonio is a perfect team. The Spurs can guard any offense and their offense cannot be stopped, as they can play big or small and shoot.

  3. Cleveland Cavaliers: 28-10. Previous Rank: 3
    Kyrie Irving is healthy and is already playing elite basketball, which is impressive, as he missed six months with a knee injury. The Cavaliers also recently made the right choice to start Tristan Thompson as well, and like I said, barring injury they will win the Eastern Conference.

  4. Oklahoma City Thunder: 30-12. Previous Rank: 4
    Oklahoma City has two of the four best players in the NBA having MVP seasons, along with three excellent young big men, and can defend. The Thunder are elite, but Sam Presti needs to make a trade for a starting shooting guard, which they have the pieces to do; I just don't like their Andre Roberson-Dion Waiters duo. If Brooklyn buys Joe Johnson's contract, signing him would work too.

  5. Chicago Bulls: 23-16. Previous Rank: 5
    Jimmy Butler is arguably the best player in the Eastern Conference right now who isn't LeBron James. However, the Bulls have had trouble with Derrick Rose healthy, as he just isn't a fit with the team. Chicago's defense is also really poor right now. The Bulls have issues to fix, but they are the second-best team in the East.

  6. Los Angeles Clippers: 26-14. Previous Rank: 6
    The Clippers are playing well with Blake Griffin injured, but they have had an easy schedule. Regardless, they are getting excellent play from Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan, and if they keep winning when healthy, they could make this a five-team league. I doubt it.

  7. Miami Heat: 23-18. Previous Rank: 11
    This is a really solid team as Dwyane Wade still has something and Chris Bosh is still one of the best bigs in the league, but Miami needs continued excellent play from Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic to play to his contract. The Heat are a really talented team, but they just don't have the pieces to beat Cleveland in seven games this season.

  8. Toronto Raptors: 25-15. Previous Rank: 7
    The Raptors are healthy and getting elite play from their All-Star guard duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but need more. Jonas Valanciunas is still solid, however he isn't developing like expected, while DeMarre Carroll is not playing close to $15 million player. In the end, although their depth is excellent, Toronto needs a third option in order to have any chance to become a contender.

  9. Dallas Mavericks: 23-19. Previous Rank: 12
    This is the weirdest team this season, as they shouldn't be winning, but are. They are getting excellent play from Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki and Zaza Pachulia, and their 19 random point guards are playing well, but Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews have to start improving. Dallas is the fifth or sixth best team in the West, but I honestly don't think the Mavericks have a chance to win a playoff series.

  10. Memphis Grizzlies: 23-19. Previous Rank: 16
    I know Memphis' record is mediocre, but I don't think any team after this could beat the Grizzlies in seven games, as their defense is too talented and their veterans are too strong. However, Memphis' offense is pathetic, so the team won't be winning in the playoffs. The Grizzlies really need to make a couple more trades to improve their scoring.

  11. Atlanta Hawks: 24-17. Previous Rank: 13
    The Hawks are getting really nice play from their two excellent big men and have strong depth, but Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver aren't having big seasons, while the three-point shooting is mediocre. Atlanta still has to find a franchise player as well. The Hawks will continue to be an excellent team in the regular season that loses in the playoffs, and I don't see them winning a series this season.

  12. Indiana Pacers: 22-19. Previous Rank: 9
    The Pacers are the real darkhorse team in the East. They aren't going to win the conference, but they have so much offensive talent, yet still defend, plus they have one of the NBA's 10 best players, Paul George. The Pacers are the darkhorse as they can actually really improve, as their scoring efficiency could improve by five percent.

  13. Detroit Pistons: 22-18. Previous Rank: 10
    For the Pistons, getting to the playoffs is a win and I think they will. They have an excellent starting five, while Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are having excellent seasons, plus they have a lot of scorers and strong defense. Detroit's depth is pathetic, but Brandon Jennings is playing, and if he can thrive in his sixth man role, the playoffs should be a lock.

  14. Boston Celtics: 22-19. Previous Rank: 15
    Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the NBA. The guy has a team of random veterans and numerous young players winning, and likely making the playoffs, when their talent says they shouldn't have a chance in the East. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder are playing well, but the Celtics are who they are because of their coach.

  15. Houston Rockets: 22-20. Previous Rank: 14
    This is a one-man show, as James Harden is literally the only thing the Rockets have going for them. Their team defense is pathetic, Dwight Howard has become average, their scorers aren't scoring and they cannot rebound the ball. James Harden seriously needs to be in the MVP discussion, as Houston will be in the playoffs only because of him. He's ridiculous.

  16. New York Knicks: 20-22. Previous Rank: 19
    Carmelo Anthony continues to lead this team, but the Knicks have a lot of nice pieces and are playing strong team basketball. As for Kristaps Porzingis, he could be the best foreign player in NBA history; he is that talented. He really is Dirk Nowitzki, but a stronger shot-blocker and rebounder.

  17. Washington Wizards: 19-20. Previous Rank: 21
    The Wizards today aren't in the playoffs, but they play hard, have one of the best players in the league in John Wall and Bradley Beal is now healthy. Washington should be in the playoffs.

  18. Utah Jazz: 18-22. Previous Rank: 17
    The Jazz are in the playoffs today, which is funny, but I am not punishing them for their record as they are missing two of their five best players; their franchise center, Rudy Gobert; and their best guard and sixth man, Alec Burks. When healthy Utah should be a 45-win team and the No. 8 seed. I like this team and if Dante Exum can become the player he was expected to when he plays next season, the Jazz could become one of the 5-6 best in the conference.

  19. Charlotte Hornets: 18-22. Previous Rank: 8
    The Hornets are struggling, and it seems their hot start was a fluke. They are missing Al Jefferson still and won't have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the season, and although they have found something excellent with their Kemba Walker-Nicolas Batum (who they have to re-sign) guard duo, they aren't likely to make the playoffs. Still, Charlottte is a talented young team with an excellent coach. The Hornets seem to be one offseason from being something in the Eastern Conference.

  20. Orlando Magic: 20-19. Previous Rank: 22
    The Magic aren't playing as well as they did, but I knew that was going to happen, as their roster is talented, but needs some time to develop, as they have a bunch of lottery picks trying to become a winning team. That takes at least multiple seasons.

  21. Portland Trail Blazers: 18-25. Previous Rank: 24
    The Trail Blazers are probably the best non-playoff team in the West, which isn't saying much, but I love their Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum foundation. However, this likely isn't Portland's season. The Trail Blazer may be 1.5 games from the eighth seed, but Utah will get healthy.

  22. Sacramento Kings: 17-23. Previous Rank: 20
    The Kings can score, but they cannot defend, however, they are still in the playoff race. If they can continue to score and fix their defense by 2-3 points a game, they can make the playoffs as the No. 8 right now is 18-22. Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins-Rudy Gay-Rajon Rondo trio somehow works and this is the best Kings team in years, which is actually pathetic if you ponder what I just said.

  23. New Orleans Pelicans: 13-26. Previous Rank: 27
    They Pelicans can still make the playoffs, but the truth is they just aren't a strong team. Anthony Davis is excellent, but they are a poor defensive team and their pieces just don't fit. If I was in charge of New Orleans, I would trade any player but Davis to fix the team's problems.

  24. Milwaukee Bucks: 18-25 Previous Rank: 25
    The Bucks have so much talent, but they just aren't consistent and their defense is pathetic, which is odd as their defense was why they just made the playoffs. If they cannot get their defense going, they have no chance at a strong second half of the season. I would trade Greg Monroe and O.J. Mayo, and develop their core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Michael-Carter Williams, Rashad Vaughn and John Henson; but that isn't in the cards.

  25. Denver Nuggets: 16-25. Previous Rank: 23
    The Nuggets are an odd mix of strong veterans and recent draft picks who need to be developed. Really, Denver should just start trading its veteranss for picks and young talent in order to just re-build. I have said this for six months now. Also, I don't care that the Nuggets beat the Warriors, so don't comment.

  26. Minnesota Timberwolves: 13-29. Previous Rank: 26
    The Timberwolves are just about developing their roster, which is truly incredible. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are elite talents, yet the team has numerous potential starters. With another excellent pick, Minnesota could be a title contender in two seasons.

  27. Brooklyn Nets: 11-30. Previous Rank: 28
    The Nets were smart to fire their GM, but not their coach. However, that's what you get when your owner is one of the richest men in the world and hates losing. It's his fault though, as this team has the least amount of talent in the league.

  28. Phoenix Suns: 13-29. Previous Rank: 18
    The Eric Bledsoe injury ruined the Suns season, so they should start trading all their veterans and playing Brandon Knight, T.J. Warren, Alex Len and Devin Booker as much as possible in order to try for the playoffs in a year.

  29. Los Angeles Lakers: 9-34. Previous Rank: 29
    Am I the only one annoyed with this Kobe show? I loved watching Kobe Bryant, but this team needs to start developing its talent, because that is excellent. Also, why is Byron Scott coaching? Why aren't D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle starting? Why aren't the Lakers trading their veteran players? These are questions I want answered. This team has an excellent young foundation that is being poorly used.

  30. Philadelphia 76ers: 5-37. Previous Rank: 30
    The Ish Smith trade looks excellent and is really helping Philadelphia's offense, but this team is still too young, still lacks talent and will be very lucky to win 15 games. I do like the look of the roster and I love the big man duo of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, but the 76ers need to draft Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. The 2016 NBA Draft could shape this franchise for a decade or so.

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