Tuesday, January 25, 2022

NBA Power Rankings: Clutch Bulls take No. 1 spot from Warriors; Lakers on the rise; Knicks suffer steep fall

NBA Power Rankings: Clutch Bulls take No. 1 spot from Warriors; Lakers on the rise; Knicks suffer steep fall

We have yet another new No. 1 after DeMar DeRozan’s late-game heroics this week

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A new year, and a new No. 1 in the NBA Power Rankings. We couldn’t have scripted it better. This week certainly showed how razor-thin the margin can be, as Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan snatched victory from the clutches of defeat not once, but twice — on consecutive nights, no less.

As a result, the red-hot Bulls have taken the top spot from the Golden State Warriors, who put up a dud in Wednesday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs were also one of the biggest risers of the week, jumping into the top 10 after four straight wins, as were LeBron JamesLos Angeles Lakers, who moved up seven spots following three straight victories. The Memphis Grizzlies also continued their upward trajectory, entering the top five after an undefeated week.

All three pale in comparison to the Toronto Raptors, however, who rose a whopping 12 spots after four impressive wins with an increasingly healthy roster. The New York Knicks weren’t as fortunate, as player absences and a couple of losses made them the biggest faller of the week along with the San Antonio Spurs, both dropping seven spots.

Here are the first NBA Power Rankings of 2022.

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*Please keep in mind that our Power Rankings are based on the team’s performance the previous week, not the entire season.

Biggest Movers

Rk

Teams

 

Chg

Rcrd

1

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Bulls

If DeMar DeRozan hadn’t already cemented himself in modern Chicago Bulls basketball lore, he certainly did so with back-to-back game-winning 3-pointers on consecutive nights against the Pacers and Wizards. The Bulls added a win over the Magic to bring their winning streak to a league-best eight games, as DeRozan earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Zach LaVine was no slouch himself, averaging 26.3 points on 46 percent 3-point shooting in the three wins to help the Bulls expand their lead in the East. 1 25-10
2

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Warriors

The Warriors started off the new year with impressive wins over the Jazz and Heat, but went ice cold from the field in a road loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday. The year 2022 hasn’t been kind to Steph Curry, who shot just 27 percent from the field, including 8 for 31 from 3-point range in the three games this week. Andrew Wiggins has continued to make an All-Star case, leading the team with 21.3 points per game this week on 53 percent 3-point shooting. 1 29-8
3

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Jazz

Utah’s only loss this week came to the Warriors at home, with wins over the Wolves, Pelicans and Nuggets. Reigning Western Conference Player of the Month Donovan Mitchell has carried things over into January, averaging 26.3 points and 5.5 assists this week on 37 percent 3-point shooting. With Rudy Gobert out of the lineup on Wednesday, Bojan Bogdanovic went off for 36 points, but surprisingly only made one 3-pointer. Instead he did his work at the shorter line, making a season-high 11 free throws in 13 attempts. 28-10
4

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Suns

Phoenix lost to the Celtics in its final game of 2021, but bounced back to handily beat the Hornets and Pelicans. Devin Booker led the way with 26 points per game, while big man Jalen Smith filled in admirably in the middle for Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, putting up 16.7 points, eight rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game this week. Cam Johnson caught fire from 3-point range, knocking down 55 percent of his attempts en route to 17.3 points per game. 29-8
5

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Grizzlies

That handful of fans suggesting the Grizzlies are better without Ja Morant must feel pretty foolish right now. Morant averaged 30.7 points, 7.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds in a 3-0 week for Memphis, which has now won six games in a row. The defense continues to look strong after a horrific start to the season, and Desmond Bane had no problem making up for the absence of Dillon Brooks this week, putting up 19 points and four assists per game on 38 percent 3-point shooting. 3 25-14
6

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76ers

Joel Embiid was at his trash-talking best after the 76ers’ big win in Brooklyn last Thursday, and they followed that up with wins over the Rockets and Magic to make it a perfect week. Embiid averaged 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists, holding down the fort as several teammates were in and out of the lineup. Seth Curry added 17.3 points per game on 42 percent 3-point shooting for the week, dishing out a season-high 12 assists in the win over Orlando. 6 21-16
7

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Nets

The Big Three is back in Brooklyn, and Kyrie Irving’s season debut couldn’t have come at a better time, following three straight losses to start the week. Irving put up 22 points in 32 minutes in a win over the Pacers, looking largely like the Kyrie we’re used to seeing on the court. Kevin Durant is back to doing his thing, averaging 31.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and five assists this week, while James Harden added 26 points, 9.3 assists and 8.8 rebounds per game. 2 24-12
8

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Bucks

The Bucks extended their winning streak to six games by beating the Magic and Pelicans to start the week, then suffered an inexplicable home loss to the Pistons and a more explicable home loss to the Raptors without Giannis Antetokounmpo and a handful of other key players. Jrue Holiday kept up his consistent season, averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds on 52 percent 3-point shooting in four games this week. 2 25-15
9

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Heat

Jimmy Butler is on the shelf again after injuring his ankle in the loss to the Warriors, as the Heat went 2-2 this week. Wednesday’s win over the Blazers was impressive, as they dealt with Butler’s absence and Kyle Lowry’s questionable second-quarter ejection (Tyler Herro was tossed too, but after the game was already in hand). Max Strus came to the rescue against Portland, scoring 25 points on 7-for-13 3-point shooting, adding six rebounds and five assists. Omer Yurtseven has been all the Heat could ask for as the team’s only traditional center during this most recent stretch, averaging 12.8 points and 15.5 rebounds on 51 percent shooting this week. 2 24-15
10

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Mavericks

The Mavericks are gaining momentum, winning all four games this week against the Kings, Thunder, Nuggets and Warriors. Luka Doncic made his long-anticipated return for the last three games, averaging 20.3 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, though he has yet to find the range from beyond the 3-point line. Dallas was also able to win those three games without Kristaps Porzingis, as Dwight Powell, Marquese Chriss and Maxi Kleber have stepped up in his absence. 6 20-18
11

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Cavaliers

Life without Ricky Rubio on the court hasn’t been pleasant for the Cavs thus far, as they dropped three of four games last week. An injury to Isaac Okoro further depleted their guard rotation, though they did acquire veteran Rajon Rondo, who is expected to make his debut soon. Darius Garland returned for Tuesday’s loss to the Grizzlies, dropping 27 points and 10 assists, while Kevin Love, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley have all stepped up offensively. 2 21-17
12

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Raptors

The Raptors are getting healthy and it shows, as they won all four games this week in impressive fashion. Fred VanVleet has been the head of the snake, averaging nearly 30 points and 6.5 assists this week on 46 percent 3-point shooting. Pascal Siakam has also been excellent, and the potential closing lineup of VanVleet, Siakam, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. has a plus-8.6 net rating in 25 fourth-quarter minutes this season. It will be interesting to watch that configuration as the season progresses if they can all stay healthy. 12 18-17
13

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Lakers

A perfect week for the Lakers, at least in terms of record, with LeBron James bolstering his MVP candidacy with 33.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while hitting 38 percent of his 3-pointers. The big story is Malik Monk, who has stepped up as the Lakers’ secondary offensive weapon in the half court with Anthony Davis out of the lineup. Monk averaged 21.3 points this week on 55 percent shooting, including 48 percent from 3-point range as the Lakers moved above .500 and into the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference. 7 20-19
14

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Wizards

It’s rare to lose on two last-second buzzer-beaters in the same week, so the Wizards must be feeling especially unlucky. First DeMar DeRozan hit a nearly impossible corner 3-pointer in a Bulls win, then Kevin Porter Jr. made a highly-contested step-back 3-pointer to do Washington in on Wednesday. The Wiz managed to win their other two games, however, with Bradley Beal averaging nearly 30 points and 10 assists for the week, including a career-high 17 dimes in the loss to Chicago. 3 19-19
15

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Hornets

After losing to the Suns and Wizards to start the week, the Hornets took out their frustrations by dropping 140 points in a win over the lowly Pistons on Wednesday. Charlotte’s lackluster defense reared its ugly head in the losses, allowing 133 points to Phoenix and 124 to the Wizards. The wealth was spread on offense, with five players averaging 16 points or more for the week. 5 20-19
16

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Nuggets

Nikola Jokic averaged 25.7 points, 16 rebounds and 5.7 assists for the week, but the Nuggets were only able to go 1-2 with losses to the Mavs and Jazz after beating the Rockets. Aaron Gordon saw his first action since before Christmas and looked good, putting up 16 points and 5.7 rebounds in three games this week. As great as Jokic is, Denver is going to struggle offensively if Will Barton and the rest of the supporting cast aren’t producing. 5 18-18
17

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Clippers

The Clippers lost to the Raptors and Wolves this week, but picked up a huge win over the Nets (with Kevin Durant and James Harden) on New Year’s Day despite significant availability issues. Eric Bledsoe and Reggie Jackson have assumed the reins to the offense with Paul George on the shelf, but the Clippers gave up at least 116 points in each game this week, which made things much more difficult. 4 19-19
18

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Celtics

A big win over the Suns seemingly had the power to reverse Boston’s recent struggles, but an ensuing overtime victory over the Magic and a loss to the Spurs didn’t exactly inspire further confidence. Jaylen Brown scored a career-high 50 points against Orlando, and averaged 34.7 for the week on 44 percent 3-point shooting. Jayson Tatum returned for Wednesday night’s loss to San Antonio, but went just 6 for 20 from the field in his first game since Christmas. 1 18-20
19

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Timberwolves

The Timberwolves managed to go 2-2 this week despite only having all three of their best players for Wednesday’s win over the Thunder. Anthony Edwards played in all four games, and led the team with 23.5 points per game on 36 percent 3-point shooting. Karl-Anthony Towns put up 17 points and 16 rebounds in his return, but looked a bit rusty, going 6 for 14 from the field with six turnovers. 1 18-20
20

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Hawks

Go figure. The Hawks lose the game where Trae Young scores a career-high 56 points, then win the one he sits out due to back issues. They also beat the Cavs for a 2-1 week, with Clint Capela averaging 17 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks in the three games. Atlanta is finally starting to get some of its pieces back, as Kevin Huerter returned to average 21.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games. 3 17-20
21

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Spurs

The Spurs started off the week with three straight losses, the most heartbreaking of which came on an improbable game-winning 3-pointer in overtime by Pistons forward Saddiq Bey. San Antonio was without Dejounte Murray for all three losses, and looked much better on Wednesday in a win over Boston in his return, during which he put up 22 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. 7 15-22
22

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Knicks

The Knicks struggled mightily in losses to the Thunder and Raptors to start the week, but Julius Randle returned with 30 points and 16 rebounds to help beat the Pacers on Tuesday. The offense has been stuck in mud, putting up just 102.1 points per 100 possessions this week, though RJ Barrett came alive by averaging more than 25 points per game. 7 18-20
23

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Kings

A two-point victory over the Heat helped the Kings avoid a winless week, with losses to the Mavs, Lakers and a more than beatable Hawks team without Trae Young. De’Aaron Fox averaged 23.5 points and 6.3 assists, but his presence has caused Tyrese Haliburton to take a back seat, perhaps to the detriment of the team. Haliburton averaged 14.3 points and 8.3 assists this week on 61 percent 3-point shooting, and you can’t help but wonder what this offense would look like if he had a higher usage rate — Fox led the team at 29.5 percent this week, while Haliburton was ninth at 16.5 percent. 2 16-24
24

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Thunder

OKC beat the Knicks soundly on New Year’s Eve before dropping consecutive games to the Mavs and Wolves. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came down to earth a bit, shooting just 36 percent from the field in two games, while Josh Giddey became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double with 17 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds in the loss to Dallas. He also went 5 for 9 from 3-point range in the two games he played this week, which is a great sign for the Thunder. 1 13-24
25

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Trail Blazers

Anfernee Simons scored a career-high 43 points in a feel-good win over the Hawks after the passing of his grandfather, but the Blazers were unable to beat the Lakers or Heat without the services of Damian Lillard, who will miss at least two more games while trying to figure out a plan for his abdominal tendinopathy. Simons followed up his career night with 28 points and seven assists in a loss to Miami, while Norman Powell averaged 21.3 points as the other offensive focal point with Lillard and CJ McCollum out of the lineup. In an effort to keep things PG around here, we won’t discuss Portland’s defense this week. 2 14-23
26

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Pistons

For a brief moment in time, the Pistons were undefeated in the year 2022 after winning back-to-back games for the first time all season. Saddiq Bey hit an incredible game-winner to beat the Spurs, before Detroit shocked Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in Milwaukee. The Pistons were run off the court by the Hornets on Wednesday, but any time they can add two wins to the ledger means it was a good week. 4 7-29
27

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Pelicans

The Pels faced one of the toughest trios in the league with the Bucks, Jazz and Suns in consecutive games, and they came up short in all three. Brandon Ingram missed the Milwaukee game and struggled mightily in his next two, averaging 13 points on 22 percent shooting from the field. Jonas Valanciunas returned to the lineup to average 25 points and 12.5 rebounds in the losses to Utah and Phoenix. 5 13-25
28

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Rockets

The Rockets’ season appeared to hit rock-bottom when Kevin Porter Jr. left at halftime during Saturday’s loss to Denver and Christian Wood reportedly refused to check in during the second half of the same game. Both were suspended for the ensuing loss to the 76ers, but they came back with a renewed sense of focus in Wednesday’s win over the Wizards, in which Porter Jr. drilled a game-winning step-back 3-pointer in the final second to end an eight-game losing streak. Quite a whirlwind for Houston, but hopefully any significant turmoil within the locker room has been squashed. 1 11-28
29

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Pacers

The Pacers lost all four games this week, nearly pulling off an upset of the Bulls before DeMar DeRozan’s ridiculous game-winner ruined things. Lance Stephenson stole the show with a 20-point first quarter off the bench against Brooklyn in his first home game in Indianapolis since 2018, but it wasn’t enough to pull out the win. Keifer Sykes and Duane Washington Jr. have filled in admirably in major minutes while Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon are out of the lineup. 3 14-25
30

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Magic

Orlando lost to four tough opponents this week and is now tied with Detroit for the fewest wins in the league. Terrence Ross and Cole Anthony both returned to the lineup to add quite a bit of scoring pop, while Franz Wagner averaged 17.8 points in the four games on 44 percent 3-point shooting. Mo Bamba also cleared health and safety protocols, giving the Magic a near-complete roster for the first time in a while. 2 7-32

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