NBA Power Rankings: Can the surging Suns catch the Warriors?

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The Golden State Warriors rolled past the Brooklyn Nets 117-99 on Tuesday, cruising to a league-best 15-2 record. And while coach Steve Nash has the Nets trending in the right direction, the loss to the Warriors at home is a reminder of the work still needed to be done.

Stephen Curry dropped 37 points in Brooklyn as he inches closer to the all-time 3-point record. And even when Curry has an off night like Sunday’s 12 points in a 119-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors’ bench is there to pick up the slack.

Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns have won 12 straight games to improve to 13-3 on the season and sit comfortably at No. 2 in the West. They head east to take on the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, finally got LeBron James back in the lineup on Friday, but they still suffered a third straight loss, falling to the Boston Celtics 130-108. And James was assessed a flagrant foul 2 in Sunday’s 121-116 win over the Detroit Pistons after an altercation with Isaiah Stewart.

Can the Suns close the gap on the Warriors? Can the Lakers turn things around? 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. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 15-2
Previous ranking: 1

The Warriors just keep on rolling at a league-best 15-2 after Sunday’s win over the Raptors. They continue to get contributions up and down the roster, but one thing to keep an eye on is the health of veteran swingman Andre Iguodala. The 37-year-old has missed three straight games because of knee soreness. He has been a steadying presence for a group that benefits a great deal from his leadership on and off the floor. — Friedell

This week: PHI, POR, @LAC


2. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 13-3
Previous ranking: 3

With a win against the Nuggets on Sunday night, the Suns won their 12th game in a row this season — the best mark in the NBA in the early part of the 2021-22 season. The 12-game streak marks the fourth longest in Suns franchise history behind separate 15-game and 17-game streaks in 2006-07 and a 14-game streak in 1992. — Lopez

This week: @SA, @CLE, @NY, @BKN


3. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 12-5
Previous ranking: 2

While garnering little attention, Brooklyn continues to churn out wins, as the Nets are now victors in 10 of their past 12 after Saturday’s win in Detroit without Kevin Durant. But Tuesday’s blowout loss at home to the Warriors is a reminder that, despite their win total, the Nets still are not at the level they expect themselves to reach this season. — Bontemps

This week: @CLE, @BOS, PHX


4. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 12-5
Previous ranking: 7

DeMar DeRozan (126) and Zach LaVine (111) rank first and second, respectively, in the NBA in total points scored during the fourth quarter this season. Their excellence during the final period is one of the main reasons the Bulls begin the week tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference. — Collier

This week: IND, @HOU, @ORL, MIA


5. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 11-5
Previous ranking: 8

The Utah bench, featuring the top two finishers in last season’s Sixth Man of the Year voting, got significantly deeper and more experienced with Rudy Gay. After missing the first month while recovering from heel surgery, Gay starred in his Jazz debut, scoring 20 points on 5-of-6 from 3 in 18 minutes during Thursday’s win over the Raptors. — MacMahon

This week: MEM, @OKC, NO, NO


6. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 11-6
Previous ranking: 6

Miami has won four of its past five and is doing so behind the All-Star play of Jimmy Butler. The talented swingman is averaging 25 points a game this month and has driven a talented Heat squad back toward the top of the East. Butler has an interesting homecoming on Saturday against DeMar DeRozan and the surging Bulls in Chicago. — Friedell

This week: @DET, @MIN, @CHI


7. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 11-5
Previous ranking: 4

For only the second time this season, the Wizards lost two games in a row when they dropped games at Charlotte and Miami. But Washington rebounded with a three-point win against the Heat on Saturday and have a rematch against Charlotte on Monday. Washington’s defense remains a surprising strength. The Wizards have held opponents to 100 points or fewer in seven of their past eight games. We will find out more about Washington in this next week as it embarks on a four-game road swing during a stretch in which the Wizards play seven of 10 games on the road. — Youngmisuk

This week: CHA, @NO, @OKC, @DAL


8. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 5

Nikola Jokic was on a tear with 35 points/16 rebounds and 30 points/10 rebounds in consecutive games only to see Denver lose to Dallas and Philadelphia. Making matters much worse is that Jokic injured a wrist and has missed the past two games. With and without Jokic, Denver has now lost four straight games and Michael Malone’s team is in dire need of getting healthier. Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back) remain out indefinitely. And now it remains to be seen when Jokic is able to return. Sunday’s blowout loss at Phoenix started a torturous stretch in which the Nuggets play nine of 10 games on the road, including seven straight away from Denver. — Youngmisuk

This week: @POR, MIL


9. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 14

The Bucks started to look more like themselves this week, winning three games in a row for the first time this season as their starting lineup starts to find some stability. Khris Middleton returned from his absence after testing positive for COVID-19. Bobby Portis posted back-to-back double-doubles and Jrue Holiday has started to find his footing defensively. Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been consistently dominant, averaging 27.8 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists this month. — Collier

This week: ORL, DET, @DEN, @IND


10. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 9-7
Previous ranking: 9

The Mavs are 0-3 since Luka Doncic went down with left knee and ankle sprains, failing to crack triple digits in two of those three losses. The silver lining: Kristaps Porzingis has continued to score efficiently, averaging 25.3 points on .523/.405/.920 shooting splits over the past six games. There is hope that Doncic, who was ruled out of Sunday’s loss after a pregame workout, will be able to return for Tuesday’s rematch against the Clippers. — MacMahon

This week: @LAC, WAS


11. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 10

Things have predictably been rough for Philadelphia without Joel Embiid, as the 76ers have dropped six of seven since he left the lineup after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. Philadelphia has always been a team heavily reliant on its superstar center, but that is especially true as the Ben Simmons saga continues to play out with no clear end in sight. — Bontemps

This week: @SAC, @GS, MIN


12. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 10-7
Previous ranking: 12

The Clippers had a road trip to forget with double-digit losses at Memphis and New Orleans. The loss to the Pelicans was so ugly that the Clippers scored a total of 26 points in the second half. Just as LA got Serge Ibaka (back) back from a G League stint as he makes his way back into the fold, the Clippers lost Nicolas Batum (health and safety protocols) on Sunday, possibly for multiple days. With Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris Sr. out, Paul George has been carrying the load and it will remain a heavy lift for the foreseeable future. — Youngmisuk

This week: DAL, DET, GS


13. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 10-8
Previous ranking: 16

Charlotte had its five-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in Atlanta — but there are still plenty of good signs for the young team. At the top of the list is the play of Miles Bridges, who had 35 points in Saturday’s loss and is averaging 21.6 points a game this year. The Hornets have an interesting measuring stick game against Bradley Beal and the hot Wizards on Monday. — Friedell

This week: @WAS, @ORL, MIN, @HOU


14. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 15

Sunday night’s loss in Chicago began a stretch for the Knicks that sees them play six of seven games against teams in playoff contention. With things already on edge in Gotham following an up-and-down start to the season, the panic meter could take a big jump up if the next couple of weeks go poorly — especially as so many teams around them in the East keep winning. — Bontemps

This week: LAL, PHX, @ATL


15. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 19

Just when it seemed like things were falling apart in Boston, the Celtics have rattled off seven wins in their past 10 games, moving them back over .500 again. Long term, Boston has to figure out how to surround Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with more talent to return to championship contention. In the short term, a strong defense — with just enough offense — should be enough to keep them in the mix for a top-six spot in the suddenly deep Eastern Conference. — Bontemps

This week: HOU, BKN, @SA, @TOR


16. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 9-9
Previous ranking: 11

With LeBron James out — ejected for the second time in his 19-year career after striking Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart in the face — Russell Westbrook put up 15 of his 26 points and six of his 10 assists in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers storm back and beat the Pistons. “Just showed that will that Russell is famous for,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. Could this be the moment that gets Westbrook on track with the Lakers? — McMenamin

This week: @NY, @IND, SAC, DET


17. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 20

Damian Lillard was out for only a game and the Blazers were happy to have their star back. Lillard helped Portland to its best week with three wins over the Raptors, Bulls and Sixers. Lillard scored 39 in the win over the Sixers and now Portland is above .500. Coach Chauncey Billups’ team will have a chance to atone for a 29-point loss to Denver with a rematch against the Nuggets on Tuesday before going on a three-game road swing. — Youngmisuk

This week: DEN, @SAC, @GS


18. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 8-9
Previous ranking: 21

Seems like the cure for Atlanta’s early-season woes was simply playing at home. Atlanta has rattled off four consecutive wins after dropping six in a row. The Hawks are tied with Washington for the best home record in the Eastern Conference this season (7-1). — Lopez

This week: OKC, @SA, @MEM, NY


19. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 13

It’s been a tough stretch to be a Cleveland fan. As bad as it is getting outscored 36-8 in the fourth quarter on Thursday in a loss to the Warriors, sometimes you tip your hat to greatness, as Steph Curry scored 20 of his 40 in the final frame. The tougher pill to swallow came Friday, when news broke that Collin Sexton would miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. — McMenamin

This week: BKN, PHX, ORL


20. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 17

Toronto’s season so far has been a series of runs. The Raptors lost three of their first four games, only to win their next five in a row. They’ve since followed that up by losing seven of their past nine, including Sunday night’s loss to the league-leading Warriors. The surprising part? The Raptors are a top-10 offensive team and a bottom-10 defensive team. Before the season, it would’ve been expected to have been the reverse. — Bontemps

This week: @MEM, @IND, BOS


21. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 8-8
Previous ranking: 18

The 138-95 loss to the Timberwolves on Saturday was the third time the Grizzlies have been blown out by at least 25 points this month. As a result, only five teams have worse average point differentials than Memphis (minus-5.1). The Grizzlies have to fix their defense, which ranks last in the league (113.8 points allowed per 100 possessions). — MacMahon

This week: @UTAH, TOR, ATL, SAC


22. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 7-11
Previous ranking: 22

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle benched his starters during the second half of a game against Charlotte on Friday night, sending a message to his team during a three-game losing skid. A matchup with the Pelicans the next night provided the perfect remedy to snap the losing streak, but Indiana faces a tough schedule this week — Bulls, Lakers, Raptors and Bucks — to try and get back on the right track. — Collier

This week: @CHI, LAL, TOR, MIL


23. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 7-9
Previous ranking: 25

The Timberwolves put together one of their most dominant performances in years to cruise to a 43-point victory against the Memphis Grizzlies and enter this week on a three-game winning streak. Despite an up-and-down season overall, Minnesota is holding on because of its defense, which is 11th in efficiency, fifth in steals and third in blocks. — Collier

This week: @NO, MIA, @CHA, @PHI


24. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 6-10
Previous ranking: 23

Forward Darius Bazley has started every game this season, but the 21-year-old former first-round pick isn’t making much of a case that he should be considered part of the Thunder’s long-term core. Bazley is shooting only 37.1% from the floor and 28.1% from 3-point range, slight dips from last season’s poor percentages. But 19-year-old former first-rounder Aleksej Pokusevski (34.9% from the floor, 20.5% on 3s) isn’t exactly pushing for more playing time. — MacMahon

This week: @ATL, UTAH, WAS


25. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 6-11
Previous ranking: 24

Quite the eventful weekend for Sacramento. A courtside fan lost their lunch onto the floor on Saturday and then Luke Walton lost his job on Sunday, marking the first coaching casualty of the 2021-22 season. Alvin Gentry was named the interim coach, the sixth team for which he’s been the head guy. Larry Brown (nine teams) holds the record. Gentry will have his work cut out for him, taking over a team that’s lost seven out of eight. — McMenamin

This week: PHI, POR, @LAL, @MEM


26. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 4-11
Previous ranking: 26

It was a light week of work for San Antonio, which had only two games in a seven-day span. Both of the games last week were losses, dropping the Spurs to 4-11 this season. That mark is the second-worst 15-game start in San Antonio franchise history, behind only the 2-13 start in 1996-97. That season, Gregg Popovich replaced head coach Bob Hill after 18 games. — Lopez

This week: PHX, ATL, BOS


27. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 4-12
Previous ranking: 28

After missing the start of the season with an injury, Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham appears to be finding his footing on the floor. In four games last week, he averaged 18.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists, and became the youngest player in Detroit history with a triple-double on Sunday against the Lakers. — Collier

This week: MIA, @MIL, @LAC, @LAL


28. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 4-13
Previous ranking: 27

The Magic have lost five of six, but they did have another strong moment on Wednesday in their second win of the season at Madison Square Garden. Mo Bamba had 12 rebounds in that win and is averaging 9.4 rebounds a game this season. The Magic have plenty of room for improvement, but Bamba has had some nice numbers early in the year. — Friedell

This week: @MIL, CHA, CHI, @CLE


29. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 3-15
Previous ranking: 30

Without Zion Williamson for the entire season and Brandon Ingram for seven games, the Pelicans’ offense has struggled. In 18 games this season, the Pelicans have scored fewer than 100 points nine times already. In 72 games last season, they scored fewer than 100 only seven times. — Lopez

This week: MIN, WAS, @UTAH, @UTAH


30. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 1-15
Previous ranking: 29

Houston has lost 14 in a row, the second-longest losing streak in the league over the past two seasons, ranking behind only the Rockets’ 20-game drought last season. Only four of the losses during the current streak have come by single-digit margins. “That’s a team learning, growing and fighting to the point where we got to five minutes and we had an opportunity,” coach Stephen Silas said after Saturday’s 106-99 road loss to the Knicks. “It hasn’t been like that.” — MacMahon

This week: @BOS, CHI, CHA

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