NBA Power Rankings 2021: What each team is most thankful for heading into holiday season

NBA Power Rankings 2021: One thing we've learned about each team through Week 2


Last week, we used this space to dive deeper into each team’s biggest concern through the first month of the season.

This week, we’re going with a more positive spin.

Heading into Thanksgiving, this week’s edition of Power Rankings is centered around one thing each team in the league can be thankful for — yes, even the Rockets, who remain on pace to post the worst single-season record in NBA history.

As a reminder, these power rankings are a reflection of where teams stand up to this point in the season and not a projection of where they may land later in the season.

Got it? Great. Let’s get to it.

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The undefeated and the winless

Undefeated: Warriors (4-0), Suns (4-0), Jazz (3-0), Bucks (3-0), Blazers (3-0), Hawks (3-0)

Winless: Cavaliers (0-3), Rockets (0-3), Spurs (0-2)

Biggest risers

Hawks: 21 → 18

Timberwolves: 25 → 22

Clippers: 14 → 11

Celtics: 15 → 12

Biggest fallers

Nuggets: 5 → 9

Lakers: 11 → 15

Cavaliers: 16 → 20

Raptors: 17 → 21

Weekly scoring leader

 

NBA Power Rankings 2021

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1. Golden State Warriors

Previous rank: 1

Overall W-L: 15-2

Last week: 4-0

Upcoming: vs. 76ers, vs. Trail Blazers, at Clippers

Most thankful for: Draymond Green’s relentless affinity for holding his teammates accountable. He sets the tone and there are no plays off. – Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)

MORE: The latest on when Klay Thompson could return

2. Phoenix Suns

Previous rank: 3

Overall W-L: 13-3

Last week: 4-0

Upcoming: at Spurs, at Cavaliers, at Knicks, at Nets

Most thankful for: Togetherness. After a 1-3 start that many would deem “shaky,” the defending Western Conference champs have figured it out and are now the hottest team in the NBA. – Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

3. Brooklyn Nets

Previous rank: 2

Overall W-L: 12-5

Last week: 2-1

Upcoming: at Cavaliers, at Celtics, vs. Suns

Most thankful for: Kevin Durant being superhuman. Seriously. It can’t be overstated how incredible Durant’s comeback has been, from suffering one of the worst injuries in basketball in 2019 to now playing some of the best basketball of his career. Hopefully his shoulder injury is nothing serious. – Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)

4. Chicago Bulls

Previous rank: 4

Overall W-L: 12-5

Last week: 3-1

Upcoming: vs. Pacers, at Rockets, at Magic, vs. Heat

Most thankful for: Los Angeles low-balling Alex Caruso. Remember all those concerns about Chicago’s defense? Well, we’re over a month into the season and the Bulls are still one of the better defensive teams in the league, led by two newcomers in Caruso and Lonzo Ball. – Rafferty

5. Miami Heat

Previous rank: 6

Overall W-L: 11-6

Last week: 3-1

Upcoming: at Pistons, at Timberwolves, at Bulls

Most thankful for: Tyler Herro’s leap. We knew the Heat would be good this season on the strength of their All-Star trio alone, but Herro becoming the scariest sixth man in the league takes this team to another level. – Rafferty 

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6. Utah Jazz

Previous rank: 7

Overall W-L: 11-5

Last week: 3-0

Upcoming: vs. Grizzlies, at Thunder, vs. Pelicans, vs. Pelicans

Most thankful for: One of the league’s best homecourt advantages. Want to know how the Jazz stay among the top teams in the West? Dating back to last year, Utah is now 37-7 (.841) in games played at Vivint Arena. – McGregor

7. Washington Wizards

Previous rank: 8

Overall W-L: 11-5

Last week: 2-2

Upcoming: vs. Hornets, at Pelicans, at Thunder, at Mavericks

Most thankful for: The Russell Westbrook trade. No disrespect to the all-time great, but swapping Westbrook for depth has turned the Wizards into a well-rounded team that is looking like it might be able to make some noise in the Eastern Conference this season. – Rafferty

MORE: Are the Wizards legit?

8. Milwaukee Bucks

Previous rank: 9

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 3-0

Upcoming: vs. Magic, vs. Pistons, at Nuggets, at Pacers

Most thankful for: The 2021 NBA championship. Injuries to multiple players and Khris Middleton’s prolonged absence due to COVID-19 have been responsible for Milwaukee’s slow start, but because the Bucks are coming off their title, there’s no panic even with their record being so-so heading into the Thanksgiving break. – Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694)

9. Denver Nuggets

Previous rank: 5

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 0-4

Upcoming: at Trail Blazers, vs. Bucks

Most thankful for: The brilliance of Nikola Jokic. The fact that the Nuggets are still competitive despite being nowhere close to full strength speaks to how incredible Jokic is. Sleep on his odds to repeat as MVP at your own risk. – Rafferty

10. Dallas Mavericks

Previous rank: 10

Overall W-L: 9-7

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: at Clippers, vs. Wizards

Most thankful for: Jalen Brunson falling to the second round in the 2018 NBA Draft. Brunson has been a life-saver for the Mavericks this year, placing himself firmly in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation. He’ll be even more vital if Luka Doncic is forced to miss an extended period of time with his ankle injury. – Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)

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11. LA Clippers

Previous rank: 14

Overall W-L: 10-7

Last week: 2-2

Upcoming: vs. Mavericks, vs. Pistons, vs. Warriors

Most thankful for: Tyronn Lue’s wizardry. The head coach has been phenomenal for the Clippers, not just in taking the team to their first Conference Finals last playoffs, but setting a gritty culture and making the most of the deep roster assembled by empowering every rotation player. – Matange 

12. Boston Celtics

Previous rank: 15

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 3-1

Upcoming: vs. Rockets, vs. Nets, at Spurs, at Raptors

Most thankful for: Dennis Schroder and his one-year, $5.9 million contract. Schroder has been a savior early on in the season for Boston, replacing the offensive production of Jaylen Brown while he’s missed time due to a hamstring injury, knocking down timely shots on multiple occasions. – Irving 

13. New York Knicks

Previous rank: 12

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 2-2

Upcoming: vs. Lakers, vs. Suns, at Hawks

Most thankful for: A bench that is saving the day. New York’s bench mob is quite literally one of the best lineups in the NBA and more than making up for uninspiring play by the starters. – Adams

13. Boston Celtics

Previous rank: 15

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 3-1

Upcoming: vs. Rockets, vs. Nets, at Spurs, at Raptors

Most thankful for: Dennis Schroder and his one-year, $5.9 million contract. Schroder has been a savior early on in the season for Boston, replacing the offensive production of Jaylen Brown while he’s missed time due to a hamstring injury, knocking down timely shots on multiple occasions. – Irving 

14. Philadelphia 76ers

Previous rank: 13

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 1-2

Upcoming: at Kings, at Warriors, vs. Timberwolves

Most thankful for: An 82-game schedule. Less than a year removed from finishing with the best record in the East, the 76ers have time to outlast extended absences of Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris while they await resolution of the Ben Simmons soap opera. – Adams

MORE: The stars who could be on Philly’s wish list

15. Los Angeles Lakers

Previous rank: 11

Overall W-L: 9-9

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: at Knicks, at Pacers, vs. Kings, vs. Pistons

Most thankful for: LeBron James. A healthy LeBron completely transforms the Lakers squad, which is why it’s still too early to push the panic button despite the team’s up-and-downs. As long as The King can stay healthy, the Lakers should be OK. – Matange 

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16. Charlotte Hornets

Previous rank: 18

Overall W-L: 10-8

Last week: 2-1

Upcoming: at Wizards, at Magic, vs. Timberwolves, at Rockets

Most thankful for: Two teams passing on LaMelo Ball. The superstar in the making has given the Hornets a franchise player to build around and a real team identity, and he’s made Charlotte one of the must-watch teams in the NBA. – Irving

MORE: Would LaMelo go first in 2020 NBA Redraft?

17. Portland Trail Blazers

Previous rank: 19

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 3-0

Upcoming: vs. Nuggets, at Kings, at Warriors

Most thankful for: The Larry Nance Jr. trade. Acquired as part of a three-team deal, the 28-year-old forward has quietly been the addition the Trail Blazers have been looking for. Portland’s outscoring opponents by 6.1 points per 100 possessions with Nance on the court, giving him the second-best net rating on the team. – Matange 

18. Atlanta Hawks

Previous rank: 21

Overall W-L: 8-9

Last week: 3-0

Upcoming: vs. Thunder, at Spurs, at Grizzlies, vs. Knicks

Most thankful for: The growth of John Collins. The fifth-year forward is living up to the contract he signed in the offseason, continuing to develop into the perfect No. 2 option with averages of 17.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 57.8 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from deep. – McGregor 

19. Memphis Grizzlies

Previous rank: 20

Overall W-L: 8-8

Last week: 2-1

Upcoming: at Jazz, vs. Raptors, vs. Hawks, vs. Kings

Most thankful for: Ja Morant becoming a star. He’s no longer a promising young player. The 22-year-old has taken a legitimate All-Star leap this season. While the team has slumped a little after their 5-3 start, Morant continues to average career-highs almost across the board on career-best shooting percentages. – Matange

MORE: Is Morant the next Derrick Rose?

20. Cleveland Cavaliers

Previous rank: 16

Overall W-L: 9-8

Last week: 0-3

Upcoming: vs. Nets, vs. Suns, vs. Magic

Most thankful for: Pre-draft hype for Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green. Evan Mobley might be hurt and it’s very early, but there’s little doubt that the third overall pick is on track to become by far the best player from his draft. – Adams 

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21. Toronto Raptors

Previous rank: 17

Overall W-L: 8-10

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: at Grizzlies, at Pacers, vs. Celtics

Most thankful for: Home, sweet home. If anyone knows the value of never taking for granted time spent with family over Thanksgiving, it’s the team that played an entire season away from home in 2020-21. – Adams

22. Minnesota Timberwolves

Previous rank: 25

Overall W-L: 7-9

Last week: 3-1

Upcoming: at Pelicans, vs. Heat, at Hornets, at 76ers

Most thankful for: Anthony Edwards quotes. We need more of these. – Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

23. Indiana Pacers

Previous rank: 22

Overall W-L: 7-11

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: at Bulls, vs. Lakers, vs. Raptors, vs. Bucks

Most thankful for: Drafting a Rookie of the Year candidate. Indiana’s struggles aren’t as bad as they could have been thanks to having rookie Chris Duarte, who is averaging 13.4 points while shooting 39.2 percent from 3 at a high volume. – McGregor

24. Sacramento Kings

Previous rank: 23

Overall W-L: 6-11

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: vs. 76ers, vs. Trail Blazers, at Lakers, at Grizzlies

Most thankful for: Harrison Barnes becoming Klay Thompson-lite. Barnes is shooting lights out this season and is trading the team lead in scoring with De’Aaron Fox on a nightly basis. – Gay 

MORE: Why did the Kings fire Luke Walton?

25. Oklahoma City Thunder

Previous rank: 26

Overall W-L: 6-10

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: at Hawks, vs. Jazz, vs. Wizards

Most thankful for: Lu Dort’s contract. In the third year of a four-year, $5.4 million contract, Dort continues to be a revelation for the Thunder, who show immense promise even through the drudges of a long rebuild. – Adams

26. San Antonio Spurs

Previous rank: 24

Overall W-L: 4-11

Last week: 0-2

Upcoming: vs. Suns, vs. Hawks, vs. Celtics

Most thankful for: Dejounte Murray’s excellence. With the days of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili long gone, a rebuild has begun in San Antonio, but the Spurs don’t exactly have a number of pieces to build around. Luckily, Murray’s MIP-caliber play proves they have at least one franchise cornerstone on the current roster. – Irving

27. Detroit Pistons

Previous rank: 27

Overall W-L: 4-12

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: vs. Heat, at Bucks, at Clippers, at Lakers

Most thankful for: Cade Cunningham finding his groove. The No. 1 overall pick was the prize of the offseason for the Pistons and despite their horrid 1-8 start to the season, the team will be pleased with his recent run of performances. – Matange

MORE: Cunningham’s showing why he was the No. 1 pick

28. Orlando Magic

Previous rank: 28

Overall W-L: 4-13

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: at Bucks, vs. Hornets, vs. Bulls, at Cavaliers

Most thankful for: The chip on Cole Anthony’s shoulder. Anthony, who heard the names of 14 players called before him in the 2020 NBA Draft and didn’t earn All-Rookie honors last year, continues to prove doubters wrong with averages of 19.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists in Year 2. – McGregor

29. New Orleans Pelicans

Previous rank: 30

Overall W-L: 3-15

Last week: 1-3

Upcoming: vs. Timberwolves, vs. Wizards, at Jazz, at Jazz

Most thankful for: A positive Zion Williamson injury update. The star forward has missed every game to this point of the season after receiving offseason foot surgery. The latest suggests he could be returning soon, as Williamson has been cleared for contact and 1-on-1 drills in practice. – Irving

30. Houston Rockets

Previous rank: 29

Overall W-L: 1-15

Last week: 0-3

Upcoming: at Celtics, vs. Bulls, vs. Hornets

Most thankful for: The Thunder. Because if it wasn’t for Oklahoma City, Houston would still be winless on the season. – Gay 





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.