NBA Power Rankings: Can the Raptors win the East?


Don’t get comfortable. The 2020 NBA trade deadline is Thursday, and by the time these Power Rankings return, many of these rosters might look very different.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the first team to clinch a winning record this season, despite a rare loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday. The Los Angeles Lakers have already matched their win total from last season. Teams in need of turnarounds include the Orlando Magic (losers of five straight to drop to eighth in the East) and the Utah Jazz (four straight losses for a team that hadn’t lost consecutive games since Dec. 4).

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Andre’ Snellings, Royce Young and Bobby Marks and The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears) 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.

Previous rankings: Week 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Training camp | Free agency | Post-Finals

1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 42-7
Week 15 ranking: 1

The Bucks have a magic number of seven to clinch a spot in this season’s playoffs. They still have an excellent chance to surpass the 73-win 2015-16 Golden State Warriors for the fastest playoff clinch in history, as the Warriors clinched in 58 games. The Bucks have played 49 games thus far. — Snellings

This week: @NOP, PHI, @ORL

2. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 37-11
Week 15 ranking: 2

In the midst of an emotional week, the Lakers and Clippers decided to postpone Tuesday’s meeting following the death of Kobe Bryant on Jan. 26. The Lakers lost to the Blazers on Friday, their first game since Bryant’s death, but won Saturday at Sacramento. They took a much-needed day off Sunday and are expected to be back to practice Monday. — Spears

This week: SAS, HOU, @GSW

3. Toronto Raptors
Record: 36-14
Week 15 ranking: 5

The Raptors have won 11 straight games and jumped to the second seed in the Eastern Conference with the third-best record in the NBA. They lost Norman Powell to a hand fracture on Friday; Powell has been a key player who averaged 17.5 PPG in the 11 games he played since his previous injury. But the team has been nigh unbeatable since the return of Pascal Siakam, who won his second Eastern Conference Player of the Week award of the season. — Snellings

This week: IND, @IND, BKN

4. LA Clippers
Record: 34-15
Week 15 ranking: 4

Paul George is back after missing nine games due to a hamstring injury. The best thing he did last week, however, was his moving voiceover before the Clippers’ game against the Kings on Thursday, the first NBA game at Staples Center since Kobe Bryant’s death. The Clippers have handled the tragic situation with their co-tenants with class and grace, best exemplified by the subtle touch of not covering Bryant’s retired jerseys for the remainder of the season. — Young

This week: SAS, MIA, @MIN, @CLE

5. Denver Nuggets
Record: 34-16
Week 15 ranking: 6

The Nuggets went 11-5 in January despite Paul Millsap‘s missing 13 games, Jamal Murray‘s missing nine games, Gary Harris‘ missing seven games and Mason Plumlee‘s missing six games. The most impressive win of the bunch was a 127-115 road win over the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back for which the team landed in Milwaukee at almost 4 a.m. — Young

This week: POR, @UTAH, @PHX

6. Boston Celtics
Record: 33-15
Week 15 ranking: 8

If Jaylen Brown wanted to prove why he deserves to be named an Eastern Conference All-Star alongside teammates Kemba Walker (starter) and Jayson Tatum (reserve), he did so in Saturday’s 116-95 win over Philadelphia. Brown gave the Celtics a 32-point performance while Walker was out due to knee soreness. Brown averaged 25 points on 55.8% from the field in a 3-0 week for Boston. The Celtics’ bench also showed signs of life, as evidenced by the 15- and 11-point games from Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, respectively, in the win over the 76ers. — Marks

This week: @ATL, ORL, ATL, @OKC

7. Miami Heat
Record: 33-15
Week 15 ranking: 7

The Heat’s 27-10 record was third-best through Jan. 8, but Miami has gone 6-5 since then. There has been a mix of head-scratching losses (Knicks, Nets) and measuring-bar losses (Celtics, Clippers). Oklahoma City is the lone team above .500 that the Heat have beaten in this stretch. This week provides two opportunities to get back on track with games against the Sixers and Clippers. — Young

This week: PHI, @LAC, @SAC, @POR

8. Utah Jazz
Record: 32-17
Week 15 ranking: 3

The Jazz might be in the midst of the most surprising four-game losing streak of the NBA season, considering that Utah had won 19 of its previous 21 games. The Jazz have given up 50-point games to Houston’s Eric Gordon and Portland’s Damian Lillard during the skid, allowing 120.4 points per 100 possessions.

“We have to have a good practice, come in, lock in and fix that,” Donovan Mitchell told reporters after Saturday’s loss in Portland. “Otherwise, it’s going to be a s—ty All-Star break.” — MacMahon

This week: DEN, POR, @HOU

9. Houston Rockets
Record: 31-18
Week 15 ranking: 11

James Harden has recovered from the left thigh contusion that caused him to miss two games and has finally worked his way out of his long-distance shooting slump. Harden made 13 of 29 3-point attempts during the small-ball Rockets’ two wins over the weekend, averaging 37.5 points per game. He made a total of 13 3s on 71 attempts (18.3%) in his previous seven games, in which he averaged 24.9 points, a stunningly low number by his ridiculous standards. — MacMahon

This week: CHA, @LAL, @PHX, UTAH

10. Indiana Pacers
Record: 31-18
Week 15 ranking: 9

The Pacers got Victor Oladipo back this week and are now in the process of reintegrating him on a team that was already among the block of six teams at the top of the Eastern Conference. Although the Bucks are seemingly out of reach, the Pacers are within 4.5 games of the second-seeded Raptors and could be a strong second-half push away from earning home-court advantage in the playoffs this season. — Snellings

This week: DAL, @TOR, TOR, NOP

11. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 30-19
Week 15 ranking: 12

The Mavs are 3-3 in the six games Luka Doncic has missed this season after Saturday’s win over the Hawks, with Kristaps Porzingis also out due to planned rest. Doncic will miss at least five more games while recovering from his second right ankle sprain of the season. Porzingis has responded to the larger role he has when Doncic isn’t available, averaging 24.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in those games. — MacMahon

This week: @IND, MEM, @WAS, @CHA

12. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 31-19
Week 15 ranking: 10

A week after their most impressive home win of the season against the Lakers, the 76ers reverted back to resembling a lottery team on the road. Two losses to Atlanta and Boston have them 9-17 on the road — the worst of any team above .500. In the loss to Boston, the front court of Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid combined for 30 points on 9-of-34 from the field, with a mere 1-of-11 from Embiid. The road record gives validation to the notion that Philadelphia could be heading toward an early exit come mid-April. — Marks

This week: @MIA, @MIL, MEM, CHI

13. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 30-20
Week 15 ranking: 13

The Thunder’s month of January was a grinder, but they made it through not only in tact but also rising. With a league-maximum 17 games in 30 days, including 10 on the road, the Thunder went 12-5. They’re secure in their playoff position, and now it’s about climbing — they are a game back of fifth in the West. They’re 24-9 since Thanksgiving, the second-best record in the NBA in that span. To cap it off, they kept their league-best All-Star streak going, with Chris Paul giving Oklahoma City an All-Star in 11 consecutive seasons. Since 2010, the Thunder have had 18 All-Star selections, tied with the Warriors for second-most in that span and behind only that of the Heat (19). — Young

This week: CLE, DET, BOS

14. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 24-25
Week 15 ranking: 14

The Grizzlies’ 11-4 record tied the Jazz for the third-best record in the league in January. Shooting guard Dillon Brooks, who turned 24 on Jan. 22, had the best month of his career, averaging a team-high 20.5 points while shooting 45.5% from 3-point range. Memphis is 17-1 when Brooks scores at least 20 points this season. — MacMahon

This week: DET, @DAL, @PHI, @WAS

15. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 23-27
Week 15 ranking: 19

Beginning with his career-high 61 points on Jan. 20, Damian Lillard’s past six games look like this: 61, 47, 50, 36, 48, 51. With 61 assists. Lillard isn’t on another planet right now; he’s in another galaxy. Nobody cooks like Lillard. You have to pick him up somewhere between the parking garage and the locker room, or he’ll pop you for a 37-footer. But even more than the ridiculous raw numbers, Portland’s record in the past six games looks like this: WLWWWW. Lillard is doing what it takes to get his team back in the postseason conversation, as the Blazers are now just 1.5 games back of the 8-seed. — Young

This week: @DEN, SAS, @UTAH, MIA

16. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 22-26
Week 15 ranking: 15

DeMar DeRozan didn’t generate much buzz as an All-Star candidate — or outrage as a snub — but he’s putting up statistics that compare favorably to those of the four All-Star campaigns he had in the Eastern Conference. DeRozan’s 23.1 points per game rank third in his career, but his field goal percentage (.538) is by far his best. The only time he has averaged more rebounds (5.6) and assists (5.2) was last season, when he also wasn’t an All-Star. — MacMahon

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

17. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 20-30
Week 15 ranking: 21

Zion Williamson isn’t just a highlight machine. He has also had a positive plus-minus in all six games he has played, though the Pelicans are merely 3-3 in those contests. Williamson has a net rating of plus-14.9 points per 100 possessions. Of course, he provides plenty of highlights, too. Williamson has 11 dunks in those six games, a major reason he’s shooting 61.5% from the floor. — MacMahon

This week: MIL, @CHI, @IND

18. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 21-27
Week 15 ranking: 18

With Kyrie Irving back in the lineup and coming off a season-high 54 points in a win over Chicago, Brooklyn was on the verge of going 3-0 for the week. Irving, however, suffered a knee injury the following night with 5:31 remaining in the fourth quarter in Washington, and the Nets’ offense collapsed, with the team failing to make a shot from the field in the final four minutes. Irving will miss at least a week due to a ligament sprain, and Brooklyn is going to need more production out of Caris LeVert. In the past five games, LeVert has averaged 7.6 points off the bench, shooting 27.9% from the field and 21.4% from 3. — Marks

This week: PHX, GSW, @TOR

19. Orlando Magic
Record: 21-28
Week 15 ranking: 16

The Magic have dropped five straight games, all against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, and they are now 5-22 against teams over .500. They have a three-game road trip this week, but they have two games against teams deep in the lottery to attempt to bounce back. — Snellings

This week: @CHA, @BOS, @NYK, MIL

20. Phoenix Suns
Record: 20-29
Week 15 ranking: 17

Guard Devin Booker has averaged 29.5 points per game in two games since he didn’t make the West All-Star squad. Booker is the only player to average 27 points and six assists per game on 60% true shooting from the field and miss the All-Star Game. — Spears

This week: @BKN, @DET, HOU, DEN

21. Chicago Bulls
Record: 19-33
Week 15 ranking: 20

The injuries continue for the Bulls this season. Small forward Kris Dunn is out after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Friday. Center Daniel Gafford, out 18 days with a thumb injury, overcame a bad fall in a loss Sunday at Toronto. Power forward Lauri Markkanen will also miss multiple weeks due to a pelvis injury. — Spears

This week: NOP, @PHI

22. Washington Wizards
Record: 17-31
Week 15 ranking: 24

The Wizards have won two straight games, which — in the back half of the East — is enough to start talking about playoff contention again. Bradley Beal, who is averaging 28.8 points per game and is not an All-Star, said after Saturday’s win over the Nets: “love our chances.” It might seem ridiculous, but the Wizards are just three back of the Magic in the loss column for the 8-seed in the East. — Young

This week: GSW, DAL, MEM

23. Sacramento Kings
Record: 18-31
Week 15 ranking: 23

The Rising Stars Challenge on Feb. 14 will take place without injured second-year forward Marvin Bagley III. The second overall pick of the 2018 NBA draft has missed all but four games since Dec. 26 versus Minnesota due to a mid-foot sprain. Bagley, who was drafted over Luka Doncic and Trae Young, will be reevaluated after All-Star weekend. — Spears

This week: MIN, MIA, SAS

24. Detroit Pistons
Record: 18-33
Week 15 ranking: 22

The Pistons are a team many have their eyes on this week due to the upcoming trade deadline. They have two players in Andre Drummond and Derrick Rose who have been heavily mentioned in trade rumors, and given that this team is four spots out of the eighth seed in the East, there is heavy speculation that the Pistons could be sellers. — Snellings

This week: @MEM, PHX, @OKC, NYK

25. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 16-33
Week 15 ranking: 26

The good news for Charlotte is that though the Hornets ranked last in the Future Power Rankings before the season started, they have three players — Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington — participating in the Rising Stars game during All-Star Weekend. However, while there certainly seems to be a foundation for the future, the present is a different story. The Hornets finished the month of January 3-9 and are a season-worst 17 games below .500. — Marks

This week: ORL, @HOU, DAL

26. New York Knicks
Record: 14-36
Week 15 ranking: 27

Despite a 92-85 win at Indiana on Saturday, it is hard not to focus on a low point of the season for New York: Wednesday’s 127-106 loss to Memphis. Not only did the Knicks lose by 21 points, but the game was also marred by two incidents on and off the court. Elfrid Payton was ejected for shoving Jae Crowder as he shot a 3 with 48 seconds left in the fourth and the game out of reach, and the ensuing scuffle saw both players ejected. Marcus Morris Sr. was also ejected for his role in the brawl, and he made matters worse with his insulting postgame remarks. Payton was issued a one-game suspension, and Morris was fined. As for the roster ahead of the trade deadline, it remains to be seen if New York learned from its mistakes last summer and will embrace rebuilding six months later. — Marks

This week: @CLE, ORL, @DET, @ATL

27. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 15-33
Week 15 ranking: 25

The Timberwolves have lost 11 straight games and have not won a game in which Karl-Anthony Towns has played since Nov. 27, 2019. They appeared to have a win lined up with a 27-point lead against the Kings last week, but the Kings completed a historic (if not controversial) comeback and won the game in overtime. The Timberwolves get another chance against the Kings on Monday, followed by a favorable matchup at home against a Hawks team that might not have a full-strength Trae Young (ankle). — Snellings

This week: @SAC, ATL, LAC

28. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 13-37
Week 15 ranking: 28

The focus in Cleveland this week will be on what happens off the court. With the Feb. 6 trade deadline approaching, expect general manager Koby Altman to be aggressive when it comes to the roster. Altman has made eight trades during the regular season since taking over in 2017, all focusing on building up draft assets. While Kevin Love is certainly the name to watch, the Cavaliers have four veterans on expiring contracts, including Tristan Thompson. — Marks

This week: NYK, @OKC, LAC

29. Golden State Warriors
Record: 11-39
Week 15 ranking: 29

Should Warriors guard Stephen Curry return this season with high draft lottery odds on the line? Curry, who suffered a fractured left hand on Oct. 30, will be reevaluated in four weeks. His continued progress has the Warriors hopeful that he will return to action at some point in March. — Spears

This week: @WAS, @BKN, LAL

30. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 13-37
Week 15 ranking: 30

All-Star guard Trae Young suffered a right ankle sprain in the third quarter of Saturday’s game at Dallas. The Hawks are expected to err on the side of caution with the sharpshooter, according to a source, but he is not expected to miss the All-Star Game on Feb. 16. Young averaged 31.7 points, 11.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds in January, becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 to meet those minimums. — Spears

This week: BOS, @MIN, @BOS, NYK

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