NBA Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand During All-Star Break

Mo DakhilFeatured Columnist IMarch 8, 2021

NBA Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand During All-Star Break

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Another week is done as we approach the halfway point of the NBA season. Some of the top teams in the West struggled for a variety of reasons, and that has opened the door for the Phoenix Suns to rise in the standings. The East's top three have remained the same, but everything below them is up in the air with just three games separating four through 11th.  

    With the All-Star Game behind us, things will heat up as the trade deadline approaches on March 25, and the buyout market is already open with Blake Griffin leaving the Detroit Pistons and heading to the Brooklyn Nets. He will not be the last buyout candidate contenders are going to chase this season. 

    Most teams had a light week prior to the All-Star break, playing just two games. A few played three times, but the criteria for these rankings remained the same: How a team played this week, the body of work for the season, who it beat and strength of schedule all went into consideration.

30. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 30th

    The Chris Finch era in Minnesota is only five games old, but it has been a winless five games, extending the Wolves' losing streak to nine. There have been challenges with D'Angelo Russell's knee injury and Malik Beasley's suspension. 

    It has been a challenging season for Karl-Anthony Towns, and it's understandable that his production has taken a dip. He's averaging 22.0 points and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 37.5 percent from three. The hope for Minnesota is that he can reset for the second half of the season.

    It won't be easy coming out of the All-Star break, though. Only one of the Wolves' first six games out of the break is against a sub-.500 team. There is a good chance this losing streak is going to extend past nine.

29. Houston Rockets

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 29th

    Houston holds the longest active losing streak at 13 games, and the outlook is getting bleak. With no hope of making the playoffs, the trade rumors have begun swirling. 

    Several teams have inquired about the availability of P.J. Tucker. According to a report from Tom Haberstroh on TrueHoop, there is an expectation that he will end up with the Philadelphia 76ers, either in a trade or as a buyout candidate. 

    Victor Oladipo, who recently turned down a two-year extension, could also bounce around the rumor mill. That decision may push the Rockets to see if there is a market for him instead of risking losing him for nothing in free agency.

28. Orlando Magic

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 27th

    The losses are piling up for the Orlando Magic. They limped into the break riding a five-game losing streak, dropping games by an average of 14.6 points with a defensive rating of 120.4

    Injuries have decimated Orlando this year. Jonathan Isaac was ruled out for the season before it began, and Markelle Fultz tore his ACL early in the year. Since then, Aaron Gordon has missed time with an ankle sprain and played just 19 games this season. Cole Anthony has been out with a broken rib. Evan Fournier has missed games with a groin injury, and James Ennis III has been out the last three games with a calf injury.

    The big problem for the Magic, even if they get most of their guys back after the All-Star break, is that they are so far behind that this season may already be lost.

27. Detroit Pistons

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 28th

    The Blake Griffin era in Detroit has come to an end with the buyout negotiated over the break. It makes sense as the Pistons are heading for a total rebuild after trading Derrick Rose a few weeks back. 

    Detroit already has a centerpiece player in Jerami Grant and interesting young prospects in Isaiah Stewart, Sekou Doumbouya and rookie Saddiq Bey. The jury is still out on Killian Hayes, who is recovering from a hip injury that derailed his rookie season after seven games. 

    Do not be surprised if the Pistons make a few more moves and find homes for either Delon Wright or Wayne Ellington, each of whom will garner some interest around the league. 

26. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 26th

    After going on a 10-game losing streak, the Cavs rebounded nicely with a four-game win streak that came to end with a loss to the Indiana Pacers. 

    It has been nine games since Cleveland decided to sit Andre Drummond and give heavy minutes to Jarrett Allen. During that stretch, Allen has averaged 17.1 points, 13.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks on a 68.5 field-goal percentage. 

    The Cavaliers have found their center of the future to go with their young guards, and this team now has real promise.

25. Sacramento Kings

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 25th

    A defensive rating of 119.1 makes the Kings the worst defensive team in the NBA. It is not even close as Sacramento is 3.2 points per 100 possessions worse than every other team. Even though it has a top-10 offensive rating, it has not been able to make up for its defensive deficiencies.

    The Kings have only two wins in their last 10 games, and their defense has been even worse over that stretch with a 124.6 defensive rating.

    Despite all the losing, it appears head coach Luke Walton will keep his job this season, per Sam Amick and Jason Jones of The Athletic.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 24th

    This has been a fun season for Oklahoma City. The expectations were low; it was all about development. The growth of young players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort is apparent.

    This is the first time a team has given the keys to Gilgeous-Alexander without any training wheels, and he's been great. He's scoring 23.2 points per night and doing so on 41.2 percent shooting from deep while handing out 6.2 assists per game. Dort started the season hot from three but has leveled off recently. He still possesses a lot of promise for the Thunder and is on a team-friendly deal.

    Those are not the only players Oklahoma City has to keep developing, Darius Bazley, Hamidou Diallo, Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski will all have to make gains as the team continues its rebuild.

23. New Orleans Pelicans

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 22nd

    The Pelicans have too much talent to be six games below 500. 

    With Zion Williamson on the ball and running pick-and-rolls much more frequently, the offense has improved. New Orleans' offensive rating sits just outside the top five, but its defense has let the team down.

    With Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Eric Bledsoe, the Pelicans defense should be much better and certainly shouldn't have the second-worst numbers in the league.

    If New Orleans is going to break through, it will have to defend better. In their last five games, the Pelicans have given up an average of 120.2 points and only won once. That won't get them into the playoffs.

22. Atlanta Hawks

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 23rd

    Last week started with the firing of Lloyd Pierce, and Nate McMillan was named the interim head coach. 

    One big problem this season has been closing as the Hawks have routinely blown fourth-quarter leads. Atlanta is 3-10 in games with a three-point differential with three minutes left, though last week's win over the Magic was an exception. It has the league's second-worst net rating (minus-28.9) in those situations. 

    Staying in the playoff race will depend more on the health of players like Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Andre Hunter and Kris Dunn than the coaching change.

21. Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 21st

    The Wizards have been on the rise after their horrible start to the season. They have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games to get out of the basement and into the playoff race. They also had a big win over the Los Angeles Clippers to head into the All-Star break with a confidence boost. 

    Russell Westbrook has looked better during that 10-game stretch, averaging a triple-double, which has almost become mundane for him. Davis Bertans is back to his red-hot-shooting self, connecting on 51.5 percent from three over the last 10 games. 

    The recent surge should put an end to any Bradley Beal trade rumors, at least until the offseason comes. If Washington makes a move around the deadline, it will probably be a marginal one to help it charge into the playoffs.

20. Chicago Bulls

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 20th

    Head coach Billy Donovan has the Bulls in the mix for a playoff spot in the second half of the season. He has gotten a career year from Zach LaVine, who made his first All-Star appearance. 

    But this season has not just been about LaVine. Thaddeus Young has been averaging a career-high 4.4 assists to help the Bulls with some playmaking. Coby White is having a great sophomore year, improving as both a scorer and a playmaker. 

    But Chicago must find a way to get Lauri Markkanen healthy and on the floor. He has only played in 14 of the Bulls' 34 games, and they are missing his production. In the games Markkanen has played, his 19.1 points per contest give them a true second option behind LaVine. 

    Markkanen staying healthy for the second half of the season could help solidify the Bulls in the playoff race. Without him, they will be a longshot to emerge from play-in range.

19. Indiana Pacers

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 19th

    Indiana has stumbled in the standings and rankings lately, winning just twice in its last eight games. It will not get easier for the Pacers as they head West for games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets right out of the All-Star break. 

    Help could be coming soon in the form of Caris LeVert. He has been out indefinitely since he arrived in Indiana following surgery for kidney cancer. It appears he is on track to play in the second half of the season, though no timetable has been made public, per Shams Charania of The Athletic

    The Pacers would benefit greatly from LeVert's return as Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are desperate for a third scorer. 

18. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 18th

    It is fairly impressive that the Grizzlies have been able to stay at .500 with Jaren Jackson Jr. not playing a second of basketball this season. A lot of that has to do with how well the organization has done at the end of drafts.

    Dillon Brooks was a second-round pick in the 2017 draft, Xavier Tillman Sr. was a second-round pick three years later, and Desmond Bane was the last pick of the first round in 2020. All three are playing important roles for Memphis. Brooks has been their second-leading scorer, Tillman has made an impact off the bench, and Bane is shooting 44.3 percent from three. 

    Continuing to hit late in the draft has helped the Grizzlies stay afloat and given Ja Morant a supporting cast that can possibly make the playoffs this year, especially if they get Jackson back soon.

17. Golden State Warriors

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 15th

    The Warriors followed their first three-game winning streak with their first three-game losing streak. To be fair, they used the last contest before the break as a rest opportunity for Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, which did give Jordan Poole a chance to shine after his play in the G League bubble. 

    Against the Phoenix Suns before the break, Poole put up 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, including five threes. It definitely caught the eye of head coach Steve Kerr, who said after the game, "When you play like he did tonight, you definitely deserve another look."

    It was just one game. But if Poole can consistently score off the bench, it could be the punch the Warriors are looking for as they try to make a run to the playoffs. 

16. Charlotte Hornets

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 16th

    The Hornets are definitely one of the surprise teams this season. Gordon Hayward has been great in his first year as a Hornet, leading the team in scoring. Terry Rozier is shooting a career-high 43.9 percent from three, and LaMelo Ball is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year.

    Charlotte's success this season extends beyond just those three since it has gotten quality play from several role players. Malik Monk is finally tapping into his potential, P.J. Washington is having a strong sophomore season, and Miles Bridges has been a great running mate for Ball off the bench.

    Last offseason, the Hornets bet big on trying to make the playoffs. At the halfway point of the season, it looks like a bet that will pay off. 

15. Toronto Raptors

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 11th

    It seems the Raptors are at a crossroads. They have climbed in the Eastern Conference standings, but the question of whether to trade Kyle Lowry looms large as his free agency approaches. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and the rest of Toronto's front office will have to take stock of the team and see if it can do more than exit in the first round—and if there's a move that can make it better.

    Fred VanVleet has shown he is ready to fill the lead role. He is tied with Pascal Siakam as the team's leading scorer at 20.1 points per game, and he's also averaging 6.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds. Should the Raptors decide to move on from Lowry, they will be able to fill the void internally. 

    If the front office decides to hold on to Lowry, then it could look to bring in someone else. Toronto has already been linked to Andre Drummond of the Cleveland Cavaliers and could try to swing a deal if it feels he could make it a contender in the East.

    A Lowry trade could make Toronto a threat, or it could go another direction in its attempt to contend. Eyes should be on the Raptors as the deadline nears. 

14. Miami Heat

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 14th

    The Heat's six-game win streak came to an end, but that does not stop their rise. They are 7-1 in their last eight games and are slowly getting healthy. Jimmy Butler has been leading the way during this run, pacing them in scoring (23.5 per game) and assists (9.0) while pitching in on the glass (7.2). 

    Miami has also gotten some great play from Kendrick Nunn, who is averaging 15.6 points on 40.0 percent shooting from three during the last eight games. Goran Dragic, who has come back from injury and played the last five games, has put up 16.2 points per contest. 

    There has been a lot of talk about whether the Heat's run to the Finals was a fluke. But now that it looks like they are past their issues with COVID-19 and are getting healthy, they will be a team to watch in the second half.

13. Boston Celtics

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 17th

    It seems the vultures circling the Celtics' carcass arrived too early. Despite Boston's early struggles, it went on a four-game win streak with victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors. Kemba Walker has shown flashes of his old self, leading the team in scoring over the last four games. He has put up 23.3 points and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 42.9 percent from three.

    The Celtics have also received big minutes from Robert Williams III. The young center has given them a lob threat in the pick-and-roll while grabbing 8.0 rebounds and recording 2.0 blocks per game during the streak. 

    Williams will earn more minutes if he can continue to be this productive and help strengthen the Celtics' depth at center. 

12. Dallas Mavericks

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 13th

    After struggling early in the season, the Mavericks have found their footing. Dallas has won eight of its last 10 games, and it all starts with its star, Luka Doncic.

    Doncic has played in nine of those games, putting up 30.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists while connecting on 44.6 percent of his 8.2 three-point attempts per game. 

    The key for the Mavs will be keeping the production coming from Kristaps Porzingis, who has averaged 21.4 points and 8.4 rebounds while playing in seven of the last 10 games. If they can keep him on the court and he continues to play like this, they could be in good shape.

    It will be important for Dallas to not let up coming out of the break as six of its first seven games are against the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. It will have to hit the ground running.

11. New York Knicks

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 10th

    The Knicks are above .500 at the All-Star break. Yes, you read that correctly. The Knicks are for real. 

    New York has the second-best defensive rating (108.1) and allows the fewest points per game (104.4) in the NBA. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has turned the defense around in the Big Apple.

    In addition to that big improvement and Julius Randle's All-Star season, RJ Barrett has been a bit of a surprise as a sophomore. He has improved as a shooter, and although the assist numbers do not pop off the page, he has picked up his playmaking abilities. 

    The NBA is much more fun when the Knicks are good, and we are just scratching the surface of how entertaining this team could be. 

10. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 12th

    This season has been quite a roller-coaster for the Blazers. Over the last 13 games, they went on a six-game winning streak, a four-game losing streak and a three-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break.

    Of course, Damian Lillard has been amazing throughout. He has shined during Dame Time, and his 3.8 points per game in contests featuring a three-point difference within the final three minutes lead the league. He's shooting 63.6 percent from three during those situations, too. It came in handy as he hit the go-ahead three against the Golden State Warriors last week. 

    Portland is currently fifth in the Western Conference, and that is without CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. Once they get back, this team should be stronger and can move up even higher in the standings.

9. San Antonio Spurs

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 8th

    The second half of the season is going to be a challenging one for the Spurs since they are scheduled to play 40 games. Right off the bat, six of their first seven contests out of the All-Star break are on the road, including a five-game Eastern Conference swing.

    San Antonio is in the playoff race right now, and a lot of that has to do with DeMar DeRozan's production. His playmaking and 7.2 assists per game have carried the Spurs. 

    As of now, San Antonio is in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference standings. If it can make the playoffs, that would be one of the biggest surprises of the year. 

8. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 7th

    The Clippers headed into the All-Star break on a sour note, having lost three straight and four of their last five. All three losses before the break highlighted their clutch problems as they lost by an average of four points. In the final three minutes of games with a three-point differential this season, they have the NBA's second-worst offensive rating (83.3).

    L.A. is a confusing team. It has plenty of talent with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as the headliners and great depth with Lou Williams and Marcus Morris Sr. coming off the bench. Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka have been solid additions, but the Clippers haven't been able to put it all together, especially on defense. 

    They had a top-five defense last season, but it has slipped to 15th this year. A team loaded with this much defensive talent should not be out of the top 10. That is something head coach Tyronn Lue must correct in the second half if the Clippers want to avoid falling further in the rankings. 

7. Denver Nuggets

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 9th

    The Nuggets headed into the All-Star break with a four-game winning streak, all on the road. Last week, they were able to dismantle the Milwaukee Bucks and pull out a win against the Indiana Pacers. Nikola Jokic is continuing to make a run for MVP, and Jamal Murray has returned to form. 

    But Denver is still looking for a consistent third option.

    During that four-game road trip, Michael Porter Jr. stepped up. He scored 18 points per night on 61.4 percent shooting from the field, including 55.6 percent from three. On top of all of that, he's been pulling down 10.8 boards per game, providing the type of production for which the Nuggets have been searching.  

    The emergence of a third scorer was not the only reason for the surge. Denver's defensive rating improved from 111.1 to 103.8 during the streak. If the Nuggets can defend like that and consistently count on Porter, they will rise in the standings.

6. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Hector Amezcua/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 5th

    The Lakers have gone 3-7 over their last 10 games. They have been without Anthony Davis for nine of them and Dennis Schroder for four. The offense, due largely to poor shooting, has struggled.

    In particular, LeBron James' three-point shooting has taken a massive drop. Prior to this stretch, he was shooting 39.1 percent from three. During the last 10 games, that number has fallen to 25.0 percent.

    It still isn't time to panic in Los Angeles. The Lakers have the league's best defensive rating, and they should be just fine in the long run once Davis gets healthy. Until then, though, they might drop a few more spots in the rankings.

5. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 4th

    It is easy to panic after each Bucks loss, especially when they're as bad as their blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets last week. But Milwaukee is 22-14 and won six of its last seven heading into the break. The rumors of a demise may be greatly exaggerated. 

    The Bucks have the second-best offensive rating and third-best point differential in the league. 

    Even though he is not in the MVP conversation, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been great this season, averaging 29.0 points and 11.7 rebounds. Khris Middleton has fallen out of the 50/40/90 club, but his playmaking has crept up as he is averaging 5.7 assists. Milwaukee is still working Jrue Holiday back into the rotation following his return from COVID-19. 

    People may be sleeping on the Bucks because they are not as dominant as they were the last two seasons. But this is a team to keep an eye on as the playoffs approach.

4. Utah Jazz

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 2nd

    Utah was so dominant in the first half of the season that even though it went 1-3 on its East Coast swing, it still has a 2.5-game cushion for the top seed in the West. 

    Utah had two outright All-Stars in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley finally made the team as an injury replacement. The first half of the season has been great for the Jazz.

    As the only team in the top five for both offensive and defensive rating, the Jazz are in a good position for the second half. Utah dropped two spots and could have fallen further after its road trip, but the teams below have also struggled.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 6th

    Philadelphia ended the week with a big win over the Utah Jazz just before the break. 

    Joel Embiid put in an MVP-caliber performance with 40 points and 19 rebounds, including a big three to force overtime. Ben Simmons provided lockdown defense, and Tobias Harris came through in overtime with some big offensive possessions. That win was important enough to move the Sixers into the top three.

    Heading into the second half of the season, though, they are likely going to be buyers at the trade deadline. They have already been linked to P.J. Tucker and Kyle Lowry, who could be reinforcements for the stretch run and combat teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. 

    It is unclear if Embiid and Simmons will be available or stuck in the COVID-19 protocols that forced them to miss the NBA All-Star Game at the last second. The Sixers have gone 1-5 in the six games Embiid has missed, so any absence could be a big blow.

2. Phoenix Suns

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 3rd

    Phoenix is playing the part of party-crashers this season. As the Los Angeles Lakers deal with injuries and the Los Angeles Clippers struggle, the Suns have waltzed right into the second spot in the West. They are on a four-game win streak and are winners of eight of their last 10 games. 

    It can't be overstated how good this team has been. It is third in defensive rating, eighth in offensive rating and third in net rating

    Chris Paul and Devin Booker are obviously playing at a high level, but it is important to recognize how well Dario Saric has performed. Being utilized as a backup playmaking big, he has shined. During the four-game streak, Saric has averaged 15.7 points and 3.7 assists in 20.0 minutes per game. 

    If the Suns' role players can keep balling out, then there is no reason to think they cannot crash a few more parties once the playoffs start.

1. Brooklyn Nets

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Last Week's Rankings: 1st

    Brooklyn is rolling these days. It's gone 9-1 in its last 10 games, sits a half game out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference and has just been impossible to stop. 

    Even more impressively, the Nets have done all of this while getting just 19 games from Kevin Durant and 26 from Kyrie Irving

    The reason they have been able to play at this level has been James Harden, who has been amazing since getting to Brooklyn. He's averaged 25.5 points, 11.4 assists and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 42.2 percent from three. If he keeps this up in the second half, he could enter MVP discussions.

    The freshly bought-out Blake Griffin has agreed to a deal with the Nets, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and he should add some frontcourt depth to a thin squad as it continues to contend for a championship. How much he can actually contribute remains to be seen, but his passing ability should help keep the ball moving. 

                   

    All stats, unless otherwise indicated, courtesy of NBA.com