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The New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and the hottest teams in the league

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After falling to 3-4, the Milwaukee Bucks have forfeited the No. 1 spot this week. The Utah Jazz, who were the league’s final unbeaten team before falling to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, handed Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks their third straight loss on their way to the top of our list.

Another Western Conference team — the Golden State Warriors — is also surging with a 5-1 record entering Week 3. Stephen Curry has averaged 28.7 points per game and is getting a lift from a revived bench. Rookie Jonathan Kuminga made his NBA debut on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, notching his first points with a 3.

In the East, the New York Knicks continue to climb the rankings after a 5-1 start. With the usual contenders off to slow starts, the East is open for the Knicks, Bulls and Washington Wizards to claim.

Will the Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets get back on track? Can the Knicks, Warriors and Jazz maintain this level of play? Our experts break down all 30 teams.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

1. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 2

Utah was the league’s last undefeated team before losing to the Bulls on Saturday night, when point guard Mike Conley Jr. rested as a precaution on the front end of a back-to-back. The Jazz’s 5-1 record is the franchise’s best start since 2008-09. Rudy Gobert became the first player in NBA history to record at least 16 points and 14 rebounds in each of the first five games of a season. — MacMahon

This week: SAC, @ATL, @MIA, @ORL


2. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 6

The Heat went 4-0 over the week and look like the type of Eastern Conference front-runner that they appeared to be before the season started. Jimmy Butler is averaging 25.3 points a game so far and is a major reason why Miami plays with such edge. Erik Spoelstra & Co. have an interesting matchup against the Jazz on Friday before going on their first West Coast swing of the season. — Friedell

This week: @DAL, BOS, UTAH


3. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 4-3
Previous ranking: 4

It’s only seven games, but: James Harden is currently averaging less points per game (18.7) than he has since he was a backup in Oklahoma City a decade ago and he is currently shooting what would be a career-worst 39.8% from the field. Harden’s past two games, however, against Indiana (29 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists) and Detroit (18 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) were steps in the right direction. — Bontemps

This week: ATL, @DET, @TOR


4. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 5

The Warriors finally dropped their first game of the season on Thursday to Ja Morant and the Grizzlies, but everything is looking up for a veteran team on the rise. They have six straight games at home over the next two weeks as they continue to see former All-Star Klay Thompson inching closer to a return. Steve Kerr and his staff are feeling good about the direction of the first month. — Friedell

This week: CHA, NO, HOU


5. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 3-4
Previous ranking: 1

The Bucks are missing significant firepower on offense, which has contributed to their early-season struggles and a three-game losing streak to close the week. Jrue Holiday (ankle) and Brook Lopez (back) were both sidelined all week, although Holiday has started practicing again, while Khris Middleton missed Sunday’s game with an illness. It’s left Antetokounmpo carrying a heavy workload early on while their rotation is depleted. — Collier

This week: @DET, NY, @WAS


6. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 4-2
Previous ranking: 3

The season came to a halt when Nikola Jokic was writhing in pain holding his right knee after knocking knees with Gobert on Tuesday in Utah. Fortunately for the Nuggets, Jokic had nothing more than a bruised right knee that cost him no more than the second half against the Jazz in that 122-110 loss. Jokic returned to action Friday against Dallas and got the Nuggets to turn a two-game slide into what is now a two-game winning streak. Denver is 4-2, despite Jamal Murray‘s absence and Michael Porter Jr. shooting 33.3% from the field. — Youngmisuk

This week: @MEM, @MEM, HOU


7. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 11

A perfect week has the Knicks sitting in a four-way tie for the best record in the Eastern Conference. A pair of strong games by Kemba Walker against Philadelphia and Chicago were also a reminder of the impact he can have in his timeshare at the point alongside Derrick Rose, a duo that’s playing out exactly as the Knicks hoped. — Bontemps

This week: TOR, @IND, @MIL, CLE


8. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 4-2
Previous ranking: 7

Ben Simmons remains sidelined, and Joel Embiid‘s knee remains a concern. Still, Saturday’s dominant win over Atlanta is a reminder that, even without Simmons, Philadelphia can be an imposing defensive team — and that Matisse Thybulle, who had four steals and three blocks in 23 minutes off the bench, is a terror for opposing guards and wings. — Bontemps

This week: POR, CHI, @DET, @CHI


9. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 10

An up-and-down week for the Bulls could go a long way toward proving that they can be a legit playoff team. After a win in Toronto to start the week, they bounced back from a close loss at home against the Knicks to hand the Jazz their first loss of the season. The Bulls will have their already thin depth tested with Patrick Williams out for 4 to 6 months with a wrist injury and Zach LaVine playing through a thumb injury on his non-shooting hand. And more tests are on the way with matchups against Eastern Conference foes, the Celtics and Sixers, due up this week. — Collier

This week: @BOS, @PHI, PHI


10. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 4-3
Previous ranking: 8

Let the Carmelo Anthony for Sixth Man of the Year campaign begin. The 19-year gunner has scored 20 points or more off the bench three times so far this season, with L.A. going 3-0 in those games. In the third game against Houston, Anthony registered four blocks and two steals — reaching that stat line for the first time since 2003. “I didn’t expect to see him have a defensive performance like he did tonight,” coach Frank Vogel said of Anthony. — McMenamin

This week: HOU, OKC, @POR


11. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 4-2
Previous ranking: 13

The optimism about Kristaps Porzingis, who entered the season as healthy and happy as he’s been since arriving in Dallas, has taken a hit. He’s been ineffective and injured so far this season. Porzingis shot 30.2% from the floor in the three games he played and has missed the past three games due to lower back tightness. — MacMahon

This week: MIA, @SA, BOS


12. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 5-1
Previous ranking: 16

The Wizards are 5-1 for the first time since 2005-06 and are riding a three-game winning streak. Tommy Sheppard’s offseason moves are looking good early as Kyle Kuzma is off to a good bounce-back start and looking like a rebounding presence with 17 and 17 in a double OT win over Boston. Montrezl Harrell has three straight double-doubles and is looking like the Trez who won Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20. Spencer Dinwiddie has given the Wizards the scoring punch they envisioned, and Bradley Beal is starting to heat up, averaging 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists in his past two games. — Youngmisuk

This week: @ATL, TOR, MEM, MIL


13. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 5-2
Previous ranking: 14

Charlotte got a nice lift from LaMelo Ball and Kelly Oubre Jr. during Sunday’s win over the Trail Blazers to finish the week at 2-2. The pair combined for 53 points for a team that loves getting up and down the court. The Hornets have an intriguing matchup on Wednesday against Curry and the Warriors, as Oubre gets to see his old teammates for the first time. Ball also gets to remind Golden State what might have been if it had selected him — not 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman. — Friedell

This week: CLE, @GS, @SAC, @LAC


14. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 9

In Wednesday’s victory against New Orleans, Trae Young reached 5,000 career points in his 208th career game, the quickest in franchise history to reach that points’ total, ahead of Bob Pettit (212), Pete Maravich (218), Joe Johnson (227) and Dominique Wilkins (230). — Lopez

This week: WAS, @BKN, UTAH, @PHX


15. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 2-3
Previous ranking: 12

Phoenix was in danger of losing its third straight game when the Suns trailed Cleveland by 14 points in the second quarter on Saturday. But then the Suns responded by going on a 50-12 run over the next 16 minutes of play that helped carry them to the victory instead of sliding to 1-4. — Lopez

This week: NO, HOU, ATL


16. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 15

At 6-foot-3, 174 pounds, Morant is dominating around (and above) the rim. According to NBA.com/stats, Morant ranks fourth in the NBA in field goals within five feet of the rim, shooting 36-of-55 (65.5%) from short range. He is averaging 12.2 points per game just off of drives, fueling one of the most prolific scoring binges in Grizzlies’ history. Only Marc Gasol has scored more points in a five-game span in a Memphis uniform than Morant’s 152 over his first five games this season. — MacMahon

This week: DEN, DEN, @WAS


17. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 17

The Blazers continue to search for a rhythm under new coach Chauncey Billups. After starting the week with a 30-point loss to the Clippers, the Blazers rebounded by beating Memphis by 20 and routing the Clippers by 19. But then they lost by 12 to the Hornets on Sunday to open a three-game road trip. Damian Lillard has yet to explode this season, but CJ McCollum has been steady, leading the team in scoring in five of its six games this season. — Youngmisuk

This week: @PHI, @CLE, IND, LAL


18. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 4-3
Previous ranking: 22

Toronto is thrilled with what it’s getting from Scottie Barnes. The fourth overall pick in July’s NBA draft is averaging 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, shooting 55% from the field and is the early front-runner in the Rookie of the Year race. — Bontemps

This week: @NYK, @WAS, CLE, BKN


19. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 2-4
Previous ranking: 19

After Saturday’s heartbreaking loss in Washington, the Celtics have now dropped two double-overtime games in the first two weeks of the regular season and have already played five overtime periods in their first six contests. For a team dealing with a series of injuries and COVID-19 absences, the extra minutes have been an added strain. — Bontemps

This week: CHI, @ORL, @MIA, @DAL


20. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 3-3
Previous ranking: 23

Sacramento’s unblemished road record took its first hit with a 105-99 loss in Dallas on Sunday. As if the 2018 NBA Draft hasn’t haunted Kings fans enough, the fact that Luka Doncic put up 23 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds, while Marvin Bagley III picked up his fifth DNP-CD out of Sacramento’s six games this season only punctuated the pain. — McMenamin

This week: @UTA, NOP, CHA, IND


21. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 3-2
Previous ranking: 20

A mid-week victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee helped maintain the positive momentum in Minnesota, even if the Timberwolves dropped the other two of their three games last week. They are off to a promising start thanks to the offensive firepower of their young trio, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, while the Wolves have been a surprising top-five defense early on. — Collier

This week: ORL, LAC, LAC


22. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 3-4
Previous ranking: 25

Evan Mobley returned to Los Angeles, where he played his college ball at USC, and made it quite the homecoming. He put up 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals and helped the Cavs give the Lakers a legitimate scare before L.A. pulled away. “They got a good one,” LeBron James said of Mobley afterward. “Cleveland has a good one. They’ve done a good job over the years in the draft, I’ll say.” — McMenamin

This week: @CHA, POR, @TOR, @NYK


23. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 1-4
Previous ranking: 18

The Clippers have struggled to rediscover the connectivity they had during last season’s run to the Western Conference finals. With Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka out and Marcus Morris Sr. missing the past three games due to injury, the Clippers are off to a 1-4 start. Paul George continues to do everything he can to carry the load, scoring 42 points in a loss to Portland — the second time this season he has cracked 40 points. But he needs more help. In that 19-point loss at Portland, Luke Kennard was the only other Clipper to score in double figures. Coach Ty Lue isn’t overreacting, but the Clippers have dropped their past two games by an average of 16 points. — Youngmisuk

This week: OKC, @MIN, @MIN, CHA


24. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 2-4
Previous ranking: 24

For the second time in his career, Dejounte Murray scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games, starting with a 21-point, 15-assist, 12-rebound effort in an overtime loss to the Lakers. While Murray’s usage rate (24.7%) is the highest of his career, his turnover rate is the second-lowest (10.4%), which is in line with his career best he set a season ago (10.2%). — Lopez

This week: @IND, DAL, @ORL, @OKC


25. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 1-6
Previous ranking: 21

The Pacers dropped four straight games this week to fall to 1-6, their worst start since the 2014-15 season. No team has rebounded from such a start to make the playoffs since the 2009-10 Miami Heat. The good news is that Caris LeVert made his season debut Saturday — albeit on a minutes’ restriction — as Indiana (17th in offense, 23rd in defense) needs help on both ends of the floor right now. — Collier

This week: SAS, NYK, @POR, @SAC


26. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 1-5
Previous ranking: 26

Christian Wood is an exception on the rebuilding Rockets as a core player who is in his prime. Wood, 26, has been Houston’s most productive player, averaging 19.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. It remains to be determined whether Wood has more value as a long-term fit with the Rockets’ developing young talent or as an attractive trade option. — MacMahon

This week: @LAL, @PHX, @DEN, @GSW


27. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 1-6
Previous ranking: 27

After picking up its first win of the season on Monday against the Timberwolves, New Orleans couldn’t get another in a three-game homestand against Atlanta, Sacramento and New York. The Pelicans lost all three games by a combined 13 points as the team just didn’t have enough down the stretch as they continue to play without Zion Williamson. — Lopez

This week: @PHX, @SAC, @GSW


28. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 1-6
Previous ranking: 28

The good news for the Magic is that after Monday’s game on the road against the Timberwolves, they have five straight contests at home. The bad news is that after an impressive win last Sunday night against the Knicks, they’ve dropped four straight with a schedule that isn’t letting up any time soon. On a small positive note, rookie Franz Wagner has scored double figures in each of his first seven games, including 19 in Saturday’s loss to the Pistons. — Friedell

This week: @MIN, BOS, SAS, UTA


29. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 1-5
Previous ranking: 29

The best news for Pistons fans is that Cade Cunningham finally made his season debut Saturday after an ankle injury cost him the first four games of the regular season. His stat line was quiet — two points, seven rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes — and the team rested him for the second half of their back-to-back Sunday. But a new era in Detroit is finally ready to begin and the Pistons are ready to see what their No. 1 overall pick can do. — Collier

This week: MIL, PHI, BKN


30. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 1-5
Previous ranking: 30

Rookie forward Josh Giddey, 19, has displayed the playmaking ability that prompted the Thunder to select him with the No. 6 overall pick. The 6-foot-8 Giddey leads all rookies with 5.7 assists per game. He had 10 assists in the Thunder’s comeback win over the Lakers. The only player younger to record double-figure dimes in a game, per ESPN Stats & Information: a kid named LeBron James. — MacMahon

This week: @LAC, @LAL, SAS

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Fantasy basketball waiver wire finds

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Working the waiver wire is pivotal to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the marathon campaign, we’ll need to source stats from free agency to maximize imaginary rosters.

A willingness to entertain competition for the last few spots on your fantasy hoops roster can prove rewarding. When curating this fluid collective of statistical contributors, it helps to consider your end-of-bench players in direct competition with the talent floating in free agency.

The goal of this weekly series is to identify players at each position available in free agency in at least a third of ESPN leagues. Some nominations are specialists capable of helping in one or two categories, while others deliver more diverse and important statistical offerings. In the breakdowns below, I’ve ordered players at each position with the priority of acquisition in mind, rather than roster percentage in ESPN leagues.


Point Guard

Alec Burks, New York Knicks (Rostered in 27.4% of ESPN leagues): Earning Tom Thibodeau’s trust can prove quite valuable for fantasy value, as the coach is notorious for riding his core playmakers for big minutes. Burks’ recent shift to the starting lineup has fueled 18.8 PPG with strong shooting and steal rates.

Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder (44.2%): Due to return to the floor for the Thunder on Monday, Giddey should continue to flirt with triple-double production as one of the lead creators for a young Oklahoma City roster.

Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (36.8%): With at least 15 points in 12 of his last 15 games, Brunson has emerged as a steady complementary scorer for Dallas. Jason Kidd trusts Brunson to commandeer the second unit, and this Villanova product becomes a legit fantasy starter whenever Luka Doncic is sidelined.

Shooting Guard

Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets (61.2%): A thigh injury has sidelined Porter for the past handful of Houston’s games, but the third-year combo guard should return to a rewarding role as the team’s primary creator soon. In a league full of heliocentric playmakers, sourcing assists in fantasy free agency has become more difficult, making Porter an undervalued option.

Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (36.1%): One of just nine players among the top 40 in 3-point attempts this season sinking at least 40% of his attempts from beyond the arc, Bane sports a 42.1% career clip from deep and is currently enjoying a breakout sophomore season thanks to sizable leaps in minutes and touches this season.

Small Forward

Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors (66.0%): A 3-and-D wing currently found at fifth in total steals and fourth in swipes per game, this larcenous wing is also one of just 33 players to have lofted at least 150 3-pointers entering Sunday’s schedule.

Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets (27.4%): It’s possible Tate could prove more valuable as a fantasy option than even Trent among this week’s waiver wings. After all, Tate has been somewhat prolific lately in slashing for 19.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.5 BPG during his last four games entering Sunday. While his scoring load will dip once Jalen Green and Porter are good to go, Tate’s ability to create for others on offense and create chaos on defense proves reliable.

Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (33.8%): You’d think the absence of Ja Morant would inspire a surge in scoring for Brooks, but he’s been somewhat quiet in that department in recent games. A deeper dive reveals Brooks claims a team-high 32.6% usage rate with Morant off the floor this season, evidence Brooks will fill the bucket soon enough.

Power Forward

Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets (47.6%): You’ll need to overlook some quiet scoring outings from Gordon, but increased opportunity rates on a Denver roster in real need should inspire some fun fantasy lines. Such as in Saturday’s win over the Knicks, Gordon wasn’t very effective on offense yet compiled four combined steals and blocks.

Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers (51.4%): Even as the fit is wonky at times in an oversized Cleveland frontcourt, Markkanen enjoys rare shooting freedom as the resident stretch big for the Cavaliers. This role has afforded him at least seven 3-point attempts in six of the last seven outings entering Sunday’s slate.

Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings (37.5%): Will Bagley ever really prove consistently productive with the Kings? That’s unlikely, but a new coaching lens might unlock more minutes and production for Bagley in the coming weeks.

Center

Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks (59.3%): The signing of DeMarcus Cousins in response to the loss of Brook Lopez likely speaks to the team’s potential need for size in the playoffs, but also signals a huge role for Portis for the rest of the regular season. Portis is currently one of just nine NBA players averaging at least 15 points, eight rebounds, and at least 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals per game. Are these somewhat arbitrary endpoints? Of course, but they also speak to how rare it is to find a player so regularly flirting with double-double production along with respectable defensive rates.

P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets (62.8%): If the league is trending to small-ball lineups, why not fantasy rosters, as well? Washington has thrived recently as the team’s primary stretch center, enjoying more rebounding and rim protection opportunities in addition to proving hot from the arc during the past week.

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NBA Power Rankings, Week 8

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The two best teams in the NBA met twice last week, splitting the series. Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns shut down Stephen Curry on Tuesday in Phoenix, but the Golden State Warriors bounced back on their home floor on Friday.

They both start the week at a league-best 19-4, but which of them takes the top spot in our NBA Power Rankings? The Christmas Day rubber match is shaping up to be one of the best games of the season, but can the Suns and Warriors hold off Donovan Mitchell and the surging Utah Jazz?

And speaking of surging Western Conference teams, Jaren Jackson Jr. led the Memphis Grizzlies to a 73-point win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, setting the record for the largest margin of victory in NBA history. The Grizzlies are on a four-game win streak and have climbed to No. 4 in the West.

In the Eastern Conference, Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls have won three straight games to climb back near the top of the standings, just half a game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the top seed.

Our experts break down where these surging teams rank among each other.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

1. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 19-4
Previous ranking: 1

Stephen Curry and the Warriors caught a glimpse of the first team all season that appears to be playing on their level: Phoenix. The Suns have the same kind of deep and talented roster that has made these two teams the early favorites in the Western Conference. After dropping Tuesday’s game to Chris Paul & Co., the Warriors responded by snapping the Suns’ 18-game winning streak on Friday. They ran out of gas in a surprising loss to the Spurs on Saturday — capping a 19-for-69 week from the field for Curry. — Friedell

This week: ORL, POR, @PHI


2. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 19-4
Previous ranking: 2

Without Devin Booker (left hamstring injury), the Suns’ franchise-record 18-game win streak came to an end on Friday night against the Warriors. The Suns had beaten Golden State last Tuesday to finish November with a 16-0 mark, becoming the seventh team in NBA history to go 16-0 or better in a calendar month. The 18-game win streak was also a career best for coach Monty Williams as a coach or a player. His previous best was a 17-game win streak as a player with San Antonio (1996). Williams and the Suns get a chance to start another win streak on Monday against the Spurs. — Lopez

This week: SA, BOS


3. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 16-7

Previous ranking: 3

It continues to be a weird season in Brooklyn. The Nets remain atop the Eastern Conference but have now gone a combined 1-6 against teams currently in the top eight in the NBA standings, including losses to Chicago, Miami, Phoenix and Golden State at Barclays. Against the rest of the league, the Nets are 15-1. — Bontemps

This week: @DAL, @HOU, @ATL, @DET


4. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 16-8
Previous ranking: 7

The Bulls made an early-season statement with a sweep at Staples Center on back-to-back nights, and their performance in New York to sweep the Knicks and Nets last week was a worthy follow-up. Chicago has continued rolling, despite playing a bit short-handed recently. Coby White and Javonte Green have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and Alex Caruso was limited to just eight minutes Saturday because of a hamstring injury. — Collier

This week: DEN, @CLE, @MIA


5. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 15-9
Previous ranking: 4

Just when the Bucks started rolling, their roster took another hit with Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting out back-to-back games with a right calf injury. Milwaukee is hopeful this will be a short-term ailment for Antetokounmpo, who is registering another season at an MVP level. He’s averaging 27.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game to go along with a career-high 6.0 assists and 1.7 blocks. — Collier

This week: CLE, @MIA, @HOU, @NY


6. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 16-7
Previous ranking: 6

Utah has by far the NBA’s best offense — 116.2 points per 100 possessions, 3.7 more than the second-ranked Warriors — and Donovan Mitchell is in the midst of his best groove of the season. He has averaged 30 points on 56.3% shooting during the Jazz’s four-game winning streak, the first time this season he has hit more than half of his shots from the floor in four consecutive games. Mitchell has scored 30-plus in the past three games, matching his total of 30-point performances in the first 20 games. — MacMahon

This week: @MIN, @PHI, @WAS


7. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 14-10
Previous ranking: 5

Miami was dealt a tough blow with the news that Bam Adebayo will miss time after having right thumb surgery. Jimmy Butler is still dealing with a tailbone contusion, as well. The Heat need to get healthy for an intriguing three-game home stretch this week, which includes matchups against the Grizzlies, Bucks and Bulls. — Friedell

This week: MEM, MIL, CHI


8. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 14-10
Previous ranking: 8

The Wizards’ defense has shown slippage in recent losses. Last week, Washington surrendered 116 points in both the 17-point loss to San Antonio and the 15-point loss to the Cavs. Worse, Washington trailed by as many as 36 to Cleveland. The Wizards started a brutal 10-game stretch on Sunday in Toronto in which they will play nine games on the road. We’ll find out more about what the Wizards are made of during this road trip. — Youngmisuk

This week: @IND, @DET, UTAH


9. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 12-11
Previous ranking: 12

Philadelphia has dealt with more COVID-19 absences than any team so far this season, including losing superstar center Joel Embiid for nine games. But now Embiid is back, and the 76ers have a chance to build some consistency and momentum as the world continues to wait for a potential Ben Simmons trade to materialize. — Bontemps

This week: @CHA, @CHA, UTAH, GS


10. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 13-10
Previous ranking: 21

The Grizzlies have led their past four games wire to wire, the first team to have such a streak in the 25 seasons since play-by-play data has been tracked, according to Elias Sports Bureau data. That’s a rather impressive response to losing star guard Ja Morant to a knee injury — fortunately for weeks, not months. “Everyone’s done a great job of standing up to the challenge and believing in each other,” said backup point guard Tyus Jones, who has 30 assists and only four turnovers during the win streak. — MacMahon

This week: @MIA, DAL, LAL, HOU


11. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 13-11
Previous ranking: 17

Boston emerged from the first few days of its brutal December with a pair of victories over Philadelphia and Portland and a strong performance in a close loss at Utah. Now comes a back-to-back in Los Angeles, followed by a game in Phoenix to round out this five-game West swing. — Bontemps

This week: @LAL, @LAC, @PHX


12. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 12-12
Previous ranking: 13

The Hawks won eight of their first nine games inside State Farm Arena. Their past three home games, however, have not gone their way, with losses to the Knicks, Sixers and then a 130-127 loss to the COVID-19-depleted Hornets on Sunday. Against Charlotte, Trae Young did have 25 points and 15 assists — his 11th 25-point, 15-assist game since he debuted in 2018, the most of any player in the league since then. — Lopez

This week: @MIN, BKN


13. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 14-11
Previous ranking: 10

Charlotte has been hit hard by health and safety protocols, as LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels all missed Sunday’s game and will be out in the short term. The good news for the Hornets is that Miles Bridges is still active and offered another reminder on Sunday of just how much he continues to improve. Bridges racked up 32 points while helping the Hornets snap a three-game losing skid with a win over the Hawks. Charlotte has three more games this week and has to hope Bridges can help carry the offense for now. — Friedell

This week: PHI, PHI, SAC


14. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 11-11
Previous ranking: 9

Dallas has dropped seven of nine games since Luka Doncic sprained his left knee and ankle. The Mavs are 2-3 in the games that Doncic has played in that span, including blowout home losses to the Cavaliers and Pelicans. His frustration has been problematic, as coach Jason Kidd noted that Doncic’s constant complaining to the referees often results in poor transition defense. Soreness in that ankle sidelined Doncic again Saturday night, and Kristaps Porzingis has missed the past two games because of a knee contusion. — MacMahon

This week: BKN, @MEM, @IND, @OKC


15. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 13-11
Previous ranking: 20

There are no moral victories in the NBA, but it certainly says a lot about the Cavs’ growth this season that they can look at Sunday’s 109-108 loss to the Utah Jazz as a game they would have won had they not gone 0-for-4 in the final 90 seconds. It was a wildly successful week for the Cavs regardless, as Cleveland went 3-0 on a road trip through Dallas, Washington and Miami before the close loss to Utah. — McMenamin

This week: @MIL, CHI, @MIN, SAC


16. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 12-12
Previous ranking: 11

If it weren’t for a feel-good and clutch win over the Lakers, the Clippers’ past week would’ve been a low point. They lost twice to the Kings, including in Sacramento for the first time in 16 games. And they were blown out at home by the Pelicans and flame-throwing Jonas Valanciunas, who hit seven 3s and had 39 points and 15 rebounds. The Clippers have lost seven of their past 10 games, with their wins coming against the Pistons, Lakers and the Luka Doncic-less Mavericks at home. Ty Lue’s team is getting healthier with Marcus Morris Sr. back, and perhaps Nic Batum could be nearing a return from health and safety protocols. — Youngmisuk

This week: @POR, BOS, ORL


17. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 11-11
Previous ranking: 16

The Nuggets’ fears were confirmed when Michael Porter Jr. underwent lumbar spine surgery last week and will be out indefinitely. The Nuggets, however, still have the reigning MVP. Denver lost six straight, but Nikola Jokic returned from injury and helped Denver beat the Heat again in Miami. And while the banged-up Nuggets lost in Orlando, Florida, Jokic delivered an MVP-like performance in his lone trip to Madison Square Garden, dropping 32 points and 11 rebounds in a win over the Knicks. Jokic will have to keep this up to keep Denver afloat in the West standings and hope that Jamal Murray can return this season. — Youngmisuk

This week: @CHI, @NO, @SA, @SA


18. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 12-12
Previous ranking: 18

There’s no getting around the fact that it has been a frustrating season for the Lakers thus far, but here’s a reason for optimism: Anthony Davis has scored 25 points or more in four of L.A.’s past seven games, as he’s showing signs of being ready to shoulder the offensive responsibility night in, night out as a recipient of LeBron James‘ and Russell Westbrook‘s feeds. — McMenamin

This week: BOS, @MEM, @OKC, ORL


19. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 11-12
Previous ranking: 19

The Timberwolves have a grueling schedule in December — they will face just one opponent (Denver Nuggets) with a record not currently above .500. Minnesota has boasted a top-five defense in the NBA so far this season, which it will be counting on to keep it afloat through this stretch. — Collier

This week: ATL, UTAH, CLE, @POR


20. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 11-12
Previous ranking: 14

After a blowout loss to the Nuggets — New York’s third loss in a row and fourth in its past five games — the Knicks talked about trying to find themselves moving forward. One way to do that? Start guarding people again. Dropping from fourth last season in defense to 19th this season is the reason New York has gone from a playoff team to one currently sitting outside of the play-in mix. — Bontemps

This week: @SA, @IND, @TOR, MIL


21. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 11-13
Previous ranking: 15

It wasn’t the best week for rookie coach Chauncey Billups. Besides seeing general manager Neil Olshey — the man who hired him — fired, the Blazers were blown out in three of four games. Damian Lillard has missed three straight games and CJ McCollum bruised some ribs, though he is probable to play on Monday. Portland has lost five of the past six, but even more alarming is that it suffered its past four defeats by 15, 22, 31 and 28 points, respectively. — Youngmisuk

This week: LAC, @GS, MIN


22. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 11-13
Previous ranking: 23

Toronto has the league’s best offensive rebound percentage, per NBA.com advanced stats, and the league’s third-worst defensive rebound percentage. Any Raptors fan who has watched Toronto struggle to close out defensive possessions with a board will have predicted the latter number, one that is a reflection of the lack of interior size Toronto is playing with on a nightly basis. — Bontemps

This week: OKC, NY


23. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 8-13
Previous ranking: 26

San Antonio pushed its win streak to four on Saturday night in a win over Golden State, where they became the first team all season to hold at least a 20-point lead over the Warriors. Dejonute Murray averaged 22.3 points, 10 rebounds and 8.5 assists on the win streak and ran his streak of double-doubles to six games and has done so in a variety of ways — one triple-double, two points-rebounds double-doubles and three points-assists double-doubles. — Lopez

This week: @PHX, NY, DEN, DEN, NO


24. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 9-16
Previous ranking: 22

Indiana has lost four consecutive games, capped off by a home loss to a Miami Heat team missing two of its All-Stars. Some frustration appeared to boil over during that game when Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert got into a heated discussion on the bench during a timeout. — Collier

This week: WAS, NY, DAL


25. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 10-14
Previous ranking: 24

Sacramento is 2-0 against the LA Clippers this season and 8-14 against everybody else. The Kings swept a two-game series against the Clips this week, with Sacramento’s defense holding Reggie Jackson to 5-for-15 shooting in the first win and Paul George to 5-for-21 in the second. Too bad the Kings don’t get the Clippers on the schedule again until the second-to-last game of the season on April 9. — McMenamin

This week: ORL, @CHA, @CLE


26. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 7-16
Previous ranking: 30

Raise your hand if you expected the Rockets to have the NBA’s longest active winning streak right now. Houston has reeled off six wins in a row, a run that came on the heels of a 15-game losing streak, the league’s longest this season. Eric Gordon, one of the last links to the Rockets’ recently deconstructed playoff team, has been outstanding during the streak, averaging 16.3 points, .493/.457/.833 shooting splits and 4.2 assists per game. — MacMahon

This week: BKN, MIL, @MEM


27. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 7-19
Previous ranking: 28

The Pelicans’ bench was one of the worst in the league to start the season, but coach Willie Green inserting Willy Hernangomez into the rotation has stabilized that unit. In the past eight games, Hernangomez is averaging 11.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game. In that same time frame, the Pelicans are averaging 44.3 points off the bench — the third-best mark in the league in that stretch. — Lopez

This week: DEN, DET, @SA


28. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 5-19
Previous ranking: 29

Orlando snapped a seven-game losing skid with a Wednesday win over the Nuggets. Second-year guard Cole Anthony continues his solid play, combining for 50 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds over the past two contests. The Magic have four straight on the road to complete a tough West Coast swing — including a matchup with Stephen Curry and the Warriors on Monday night. — Friedell

This week: @GS, @SAC, @LAC, @LAL


29. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 6-16
Previous ranking: 25

The Thunder have lost eight in a row. Last week consisted of a couple of losses to the Rockets — outcomes that could be critical in lottery odds — and a record-breaking 73-point rout at the hands of the Grizzlies. OKC opens this week with a big one on the road, playing the Pistons, one of only two teams in the league with fewer wins. — MacMahon

This week: @DET, @TOR, LAL, DAL


30. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 4-18
Previous ranking: 27

The Pistons, who have lost eight games in a row, are second in the NBA in scoring off the bench, a stat that won’t inspire much confidence in Detroit considering its starting lineup is full of young players — Cade Cunningham, Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes — the team hopes will play a big role in the future. — Collier

This week: OKC, WAS, @NO, BKN

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Charlotte Hornets outgun Atlanta Hawks despite missing four players

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ATLANTA — Miles Bridges scored 32 points and the Charlotte Hornets, without four players, leaned on their best 3-point shooting game of the season to beat the Atlanta Hawks 130-127 on Sunday night.

Bridges made each of his four shots in the fourth quarter when he scored 13 points. “I feel like that’s a statement game, let people know that we’re here,” he said.

The Hornets were missing leading scorer LaMelo Ball, starting guard Terry Rozier, starting center Mason Plumlee and forward Jalen McDaniels in Sunday’s contest. All four players are in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will be sidelined for at least 10 days.

Kelly Oubre Jr. was one of several Hornets who made up the difference as he splashed six 3s and scored 28 points for Charlotte. The Hornets made a season-high 17 3s as a team.

“It was about who wanted it more and we have some guys on our team who are just dogs and wouldn’t be denied,” Oubre said. “It was a blessing for us to go out and just compete and hold it down for our brothers.”

Hawks coach Nate McMillan said the Hornets, even when short-handed, are “probably the best catch-and-shoot team in the league.”

“We just really weren’t able to get stops when we needed to,” McMillan said. “We scored 127 points. That’s more than enough to win the game. It comes down to defensively being able to stop them and we weren’t able to do that.”

The Hawks, who stormed back from an 11-point deficit early in the third quarter, led 89-87 before the Hornets regained momentum with a 12-0 run late in the quarter. Cody Martin had eight points, including two 3s, in the run.

Atlanta stormed but again but Bridges’ 3 with 4:26 remaining gave Charlotte a 115-113 lead that it didn’t relinquish. Oubre added another key 3 to push the lead to 122-116.

The Hornets improved to 14-11 on the season while the Hawks fell back to 12-12.

The Associated Press was used in this story.

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