NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter

The end of 2017 — the start of this NBA season — has given us a field that feels surprisingly open. There are obvious favorites (Warriors vs. Cavaliers IV still threatens) sure, but the Celtics’ dominant start, the Rockets’ flourish when healthy and the Raptors kicking around lesser teams with ease makes it at least feel like there’s potential for change. 

The Pistons and Pacers are surprising. The Bucks and Nuggets are trying to rise. The Timberwolves are battling with expectations. Heck, even the Bulls finished off 2017 with a shocking turnaround from where they were in October. That all makes for a fascinating picture entering 2018.

Biggest Movers

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Mavericks

10

Lakers

Rk Teams   Chg Rcrd
1 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Spurs
While Christmas and New Year’s left many of the NBA’s elite scrambling it was, of course, the ever consistent Spurs that stayed the course. Kawhi Leonard is slowly moving his way back into the swing of things, but he needn’t rush because LaMarcus Aldridge looks like an All-Star right now. 4 25-12
2 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Warriors
What’s scarier about Golden State, how dominant they are or that they keep finding ways to stay young in places where other superstar team ups could not? Jordan Bell getting serious minutes gives this team another refreshed look. 29-8
3 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Celtics
For a moment it looked like the Celtics were regressing. They proceeded to rip off three wins in a row, including a huge comeback over the Rockets. They enter 2018 as the best team in the East. 3 30-10
4 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Raptors
Typical of the Raptors to follow up their week at No. 1 with a blowout loss to the Thunder. As great as they’ve been this season, moments like that raise the question of whether they can hang with the elite. On the plus side, DeMar DeRozan broke Vince Carter’s franchise scoring record this week with 52 points against the Bucks, and that’s really cool. 3 25-10
5 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Timberwolves
They’ve realized that Jimmy Butler is their best player, and that means he should do more. The results have been obviously great for them — their offense has become totally dominant. 2 24-14
6 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Cavaliers
Ah, that brief period where the Cavaliers cared enough to look like the best team in the East. What a fun time that was. Isaiah Thomas’ return should change their complexion, though. This is where things get fun. 3 24-12
7 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Rockets
Chris Paul came back from injury and James Harden immediately left with one. This would be a concern, but Houston has been playing hurt lately and needs to remember the season is a marathon, not a sprint. 3 26-9
8 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Thunder
The Thunder appear to have finally reached cruising altitude along with the rest of the NBA’s contenders. They have a very easy schedule to start off 2018, which should put them in position to escape the crowd in the middle. 2 20-17
9 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Wizards
John Wall and Bradley Beal have turned into the dynamic duo everybody wanted them to be for years. It really is fun watching them take turns in going off on separate nights. Now if only the Wizards would show up for the bad teams too. 2 21-16
10 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Pistons
Their starting backcourt of Reggie Jackson and Avery Bradley has been hurt. If they can survive a tough upcoming schedule then they should be in pretty good shape. However, they won’t be separating themselves from the crowded middle anytime soon. 2 20-15
11 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Bucks
Come one! Come all! It’s the NBA’s greatest rollercoaster ride the Milwaukee Bucks! Come see them knock off the Thunder and Timberwolves one week! Intentionally foul in a game they’re winning and miss free throws on purpose when leading by three the next! There isn’t a better entertainment show than the Bucks right now, for good or bad. 3 19-16
12 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Nuggets
Jamal Murray is killing it. He scored 19.1 points a game in December and gives the Nuggets another offensive weapon. Denver is setting themselves up to be a really strong team nobody wants to play in April. 3 19-17
13 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Pacers
Victor Oladipo has been out injured, and the Pacers just don’t look the same without him. They’ve lost four in a row. The good side: That’s yet another reason to buy into what Oladipo is doing this season. 5 19-18
14 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Trail Blazers
I really thought Portland’s offense was going to bounce back at some point this season, but it doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon. As a result, they’re an OK team with a major flaw holding them down from what they could be. 1 19-17
15 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Bulls
Who are these Bulls and when did aliens come in to abduct the old ones? Chicago isn’t simply playing better basketball. They’re legitimately fun to watch. This is night and day different from the team that had 2011-12 Bobcats potential bad in them to start the season. 4 13-24
16 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Pelicans
The Pelicans ability to look like world-beaters one week and barely a playoff team the next makes them one of the most fascinating yet infuriating teams to watch on a weekly basis. 1 18-18
17 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Heat
Miami got some much needed rest between their last game and their first game of 2018. They’ve been battling some injuries as of late. 1 19-17
18 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Clippers
Blake Griffin is back, and the Clippers appear to be making a run at competing again this season. It feels like too little too late, but considering their roster, it’s worth at least trying. If they can go on a run through the weaker part of the West, then being in the playoff race towards the end of the season isn’t out of the question. 6 16-19
19 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
76ers
Philadelphia’s upcoming schedule is absolutely brutal. When they have Joel Embiid they can compete with just about anybody, but there’s a real chance this team starts off 2018 with five straight losses. They’ll need to steal a couple to keep their record respectable. 6 17-19
20 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Mavericks
Dallas is on a winning streak! The Mavericks looked like the worst team in the NBA most of the year, but they’ve turned into something respectable. Overlooking Dallas is a death sentence at this point. 7 13-25
21 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Knicks
The Knicks now are 9-2 when Kristaps Porzingis scores 30 points, as he did in their slump-busting victory against the Pelicans. 4 18-18
22 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Hornets
Charlotte’s season feels lost and with so many bad contracts on their books, it’s hard to figure out where they’re going to go from here. They’re in desperate need of a trade. 1 13-23
23 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Nets
Spencer Dinwiddie has a very enjoyable Twitter account and great advanced metrics this season, so a group of fans are making a push to get him to the All-Star Game. The Nets aren’t very good, but moments like this are enjoyable. 1 14-23
24 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Jazz
The Jazz went through their brutal schedule without Rudy Gobert as expected. A lot of losing, but the Donovan Mitchell show has been a bright spot in an up and down season for the Jazz. Even LeBron James couldn’t help but compliment him. 6 16-21
25 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Hawks
Atlanta managed to reach double-digit victories before the end of 2017 and that’s a victory considering their start. Dennis Schroder has provided a nice scoring punch in some of their wins as of late. 4 10-26
26 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Suns
The Suns had a good chance at knocking off the 76ers on New Year’s Eve, but they couldn’t close them out despite a good scoring performance from Devin Booker. This phrase can be used for just about every single Suns game this season — just replace the opposing team. 14-24
27 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Grizzlies
Mike Conley is working out again and traveling with the Grizzlies. With Memphis appearing not ready to give up on Marc Gasol this could be good news. It could also be bad news for the Grizzlies fans that want a high draft pick. 1 12-25
28 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Kings
Vince Carter is 40 years old and still putting on vintage 20-point performances. Moments like this, along with their young guys, make the Kings worth watching. 7 12-24
29 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Magic
Orlando is getting healthy again and it’s turning them back into a competent basketball team. Aaron Gordon is still pouring in points. Evan Fournier provides floor spacing. However, they’ve lost 22 of their last 26 games. It might be too little too late at this point to salvage a season that started with so much promise. 1 12-26
30 NBA Power Rankings: Spurs keep getting stronger as Rockets, Cavaliers falter
Lakers
Los Angeles is competitive with most of the teams it plays, but the losses building up are starting to take their toll. They’ve lost seven in a row and had a team meeting discussing issues on and off the court. It’s a low point in Laker Land right now. 10 11-25