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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Nuggets climb the ladder, Warriors making their move

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Who took over the top spot this week? [NBA Getty Images]

Here is a look at the NBA Power Rankings through Week 9 of the 2018-19 NBA season.

Let's make one thing clear: these power rankings are a snapshot of where things stand now, not necessarily how they'll look at the end of the season. We're all about giving credit where it's due and likewise, holding teams accountable for speed bumps encountered along the way.

All records and stats are through games played Monday, Dec. 17.

10. Dallas Mavericks

Last week's ranking: 10

Overall record: 15-13

Last week: 2-2 (win vs. Magic, win vs. Hawks, loss at Suns, loss at Kings)

This week: at Nuggets, at Clippers, at Warriors, at Trail Blazers

The Kings snapped the Mavs' 11-game home winning streak to close out the week as Dallas struggled without Dennis Smith Jr. (right wrist sprain) and J.J. Barea (left ankle sprain), forcing Luka Doncic into an increased role as the team's primary ball handler.

Despite the extra attention from the defence, Doncic poured in 28 points, a career-high nine assists, six rebounds and a steal in the loss, only the sixth teenager in NBA history to ever put up those type of numbers.

Losing to the Kings is one thing, but dropping a game to the Phoenix Suns could come back to bite them as they try to sneak into the playoffs, with their poor form on the road doing them no favours.

They've dropped 10 of 12 away from home and it doesn't get any easier, with a challenging week coming up against the Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Trail Blazers, with the last three games on the road.

The good news from the week: Dirk Nowitzki is back after missing the first 26 games of the season with an ankle injury.

9. Philadelphia 76ers

Last week's ranking: 5

Overall record: 20-11

Last week: 2-2 (win vs. Pistons, loss vs. Nets, loss vs. Pacers, win at Cavaliers)

This week: at Spurs, vs. Knicks, at Raptors

Without Jimmy Butler for two games, the 76ers' lack of depth caught up with them this week against the Pacers and Nets. Joel Embiid still got his numbers, but without their closer, they dropped two games they will feel they should have won.

Without Butler in the lineup, Philly's defence has looked poor, giving up 127 points to the Nets and 113 to the Pacers. His impact was felt straight away in his return against the Cavs, especially for Ben Simmons who found much more room to operate on offence, with him back in the fold.

Simmons recorded his third triple-double of the season in a win over the Cavaliers, joining scar Robertson as the only players to reach 15 career triple-doubles in as few as 111 games.

8. Indiana Pacers

Last week's ranking: 12

Overall record: 20-10

Last week: 4-0 (win vs. Wizards, win vs. Bucks, win at 76ers, win vs. Knicks)

This week: vs. Cavaliers, at Raptors, at Nets, vs. Wizards

Don't look now, but the Indiana Pacers are one of the hottest teams in the league after stretching their winning streak to seven games.

Victor Oladipo returned seamlessly to the lineup after missing 11 games with a knee injury, (seven of which ths Pacers won without him), with their frontcourt duo of Myles Turner and Domatas Sabonis stepping up in his absence.

With key wins against Conference rivals, the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana have to be considered as geniune threat in the East, especially if they can keep up their stingy defence, giving up 102.4 points per 100 possessions.

7. Los Angeles Lakers

Last week's ranking: 7

Overall record: 18-12

Last week: 2-2 (win vs. Heat, loss at Rockets, win at Hornets, loss at Wizards)

This week: at Nets, vs. Pelicans, vs. Grizzlies

It was an up and down week for the Lakers, but they will take plenty of confidence away, with their young stars Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball emerging as big contributors alongisde LeBron James.

Kuzma is averaging 22.8 points per game over his apst four games on 55.6% shooting, solidifying his role as the second option behind LeBron James on offence. Meanwhile Ball put together one of his strongest stretches as a playmaker, recording his first triple-double of the season against the Charlotte Hornets, as well as a few highlight-reel plays.

6. Boston Celtics

Last week's ranking: 6

Overall record: 18-11

Last week: 3-1 (win vs. Pelicans, win at Wizards, win vs. Hawks, loss at Pistons)

This week: vs. Suns, vs. Bucks, vs. Hornets

The Celtics were on an eight-game win streak before falling to the Pistons on Saturday. They seem to have finally reached their potential that was built up all preseason and have done so without star centre Al Horford. They are 8-1 since sliding Marcus Smart into the starting five and even with Brown and Hayward back, they've continued to roll with both Smart and Marcus Morris in the starting lineup.

They rank third in the league with a defensive rating of 102.5, just 0.4 shy of the league's top defence. Offensively, Kyrie Irving has really gotten in a groove averaging 24.9 points and 6.5 assists per game over their win streak. They have a huge matchup coming up this week when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and if they could pull off the win, they have a solid shot at a perfect 3-0 week going into their Christmas Day contest against the 76ers.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: 2

Overall record: 18-10

Last week: 2-2 (win vs. Jazz, loss at Pelicans, loss at Nuggets, win vs. Clippers)

This week: vs. Bulls, at Kings, at Jazz, vs. Timberwolves

It was a neutral week for the Thunder who picked up two good wins and two tough losses against good teams. They used two monster games from Paul George to defeat the Jazz and Clippers scoring 31 points and 33 points, respectively.

Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic killed them in their two losses but this team still looks like arguably the biggest threat to the Warriors in the West. They still boast the league's best defensive rating (102.1) and have found ways to win games despite Westbrook's struggles.

He's still averaging a triple-double with 21.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists per game but has shot just 31.8 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three. Once Westbrook finds a rhythm, this team should be nearly unstoppable. And, they are still awaiting the return of their First Team All-Defense forward Andre Roberson.

4. Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking: 4

Overall record: 23-9

Last week: 2-2 (win at Clippers, win at Warriors, loss at Trail Blazers, loss at Nuggets)

This week: vs. Pacers, vs. Cavaliers, at 76ers

It was a mixed back for the Raptors, who put together two impressive victories against the Clippers and Warriors in cosnsecutive days, however their time on the road looked to have taken it's toll, falling to the Blazers and Nuggets in the following days.

The Raptors' #1 strength this season has been thier depth and this week saw them struggle with injuries to Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, four of their biggest contributors so far.

With two of their next three at home, Toronto will look to bounce back, but they face tough tests against the In-form indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers, two teams climbign up the Eatern Conference standing behind them.

3. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week's ranking: 3

Overall record: 19-9

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. Cavaliers, loss at Pacers, win at Cavaliers)

This week: at Pistons, vs. Pelicans, at Celtics, at Heat

The Bucks picked up a pair of easy wins over the Cavaliers while losing a battle to the Pacers, the hottest team in the league right now. Antetokounmpo missed the first meeting with Cleveland but surely made his presence felt in the second game. He dropped a career-high-tying 44 points in a near triple-double performance with 14 rebounds and eight assists. Giannis was virtually unstoppable, recording eight dunks in the game.

He was held to 12 points in the loss to the Pacers but the Bucks still sit in second place of the Eastern Conference. They're the only team in the NBA that is in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating which is a direct reflection of their 19-9 record. With three out of their four games on the road next week, they have a solid chance to prove worthy of the top spot in the next rankings.

2. Golden State Warriors

Last week's ranking: 1

Overall record: 20-10

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. Timberwolves, loss vs. Raptors, win at Kings)

This week: vs. Grizzlies, at Jazz, vs. Mavericks, vs. Clippers

The Warriors fall back one spot after being dominated on their home court by a Kawhi Leonard-less Raptors squad. Regardless, they've still won six of their last seven games and are extremely close to being back to full strength. With the return of Steph Curry two weeks back and Draymond Green this past week, they are DeMarcus Cousins away from getting their starting five intact.

Aside from the Raptors game, it was a phenomenal week from the Warriors top three scorers. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 86 points in a win over the Timberwolves and dominated the Kings with a combined 98 points. With Durant and Curry are both averaging 29 points per game and Thompson averaging a career-high 22.6 points per game the Warriors offense is clicking on all cylinders. They have four tough games coming up this week against quality teams and could really make a statement taking back the top spot of the West by having a successful week against four potential Western Conference playoff teams.

1. Denver Nuggets

Last week's ranking: 8

Overall record: 20-9

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. Grizzlies, win vs. Thunder, win vs. Raptors)

This week: vs. Mavericks, at Clippers

The Denver Nuggets sit at the top of the Western Conference after big wins against two of the league's elite teams in the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Toronto Raptors.

This week they held all three opponents under 100 points, as they continue to increase their defensive reputation. Denver is getting it done on both sides of the floor, with a top 10 offence and top 4 defence.

After a mini-slump, Denver has found some consistency again, despite missing key players in Paul Millsap and Gary Harris, thanks largely to the play of Nikola Jokic, who averaged 25.7 points per game, 12 rebounds and 6.3 assists on 57.1% shooting and 42.1% from three this week.

Rest of the NBA

11. Los Angeles Clippers

12. Portland Trail Blazers

13. Memphis Grizzlies

14. Sacramento Kings

The Kings seem to move up on this list week after week but have yet to crack the top-10. They beat the Bulls and scored a season-high 141 points to beat the Timberwolves, knocking down a franchise-record 19 3-pointers.

They nearly pulled off the upset over the Warriors two days later but couldn't keep their Big 3 down, allowing Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to combine for 95 points. This team is incredibly fun to watch with a different young talented player stepping up every night. Floor general De'Aaron Fox has the Kings playing at the second-fastest pace in the NBA while they rank first in 3-point percentage and third in field goal percentage. If this team could figure it out on the defensive end, you could see them make a surprising push in the West.

15. Houston Rockets

In last week's power rankings, we talked about how the Rockets needed to turn things around fast. In one week, it seems like they did just that. They won all three of their games this week against three quality teams. They defeated the Trail Blazers and Lakers in Houston and finished the week with a win on the road against the Grizzlies.

James Harden has almost single-handedly moved the Rockets up in these rankings. After scoring 29 points to lead the win over Portland, he recorded a 50-point triple-double to beat the Lakers. How did he follow that performance? Of course, with another triple-double to beat the Grizzlies. He averaged 37.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds over the three games and has the Rockets right back in the Western Conference playoff race.

16. Utah Jazz

17. New Orleans Pelicans

18. Detroit Pistons

19. San Antonio Spurs

20. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves dropped all three of their contests last week. They fell to the Warriors and Suns by eight and allowed a season-high 141 points in an 11-point loss to the Kings. After going 6-3 in their first nine games since parting ways with Jimmy Butler, they've lost an NBA-worst four games in a row and seem to be trending in the wrong direction. Optimistically, they have a chance to right the ship and pick up quality wins this week facing the Kings again, the Pistons, Spurs and Thunder. Pessimistically, that could keep this Minnesota free-fall going.

21. Charlotte Hornets

22. Orlando Magic

23. Miami Heat

24. Brooklyn Nets

25. Washington Wizards

It was a rough week for the Wizards who continue to fall in the Easten Conference playoff picture. In an effort to turn things around, they reportedly acquired veteran wing Trevor Ariza from the Phoenix Suns for Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. They currently rank 11th in the league in 3-point attempts and 27th in 3-point percentage, so Ariza will surely help boost those two categories if the trade goes through.

Despite their struggles, Bradley Beal has been ridiculous in the past five games. He's averaging 29.2 points, 6.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from 3-point range.

26. New York Knicks

27. Cleveland Cavaliers

28. Phoenix Suns

29. Chicago Bulls

30. Atlanta Hawks

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