Here is a look at the NBA Power Rankings through Week 10 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 Sunday, December 23.
10. Houston Rockets
Last week's ranking : 15
Overall record: 17-15
Last week: 3-1 (Won vs Jazz, Won vs Wizards, Lost at Heat, Won vs Spurs)
This week: vs Thunder, vs Celtics, at Pelicans
Chris Paul's left hamstring injury certainly casts a serious shadow over the Rockets' prospects moving forward. It's also merely the latest episode in what's been an incredibly tumultuous season thus far for a team that came minutes away from reaching the NBA Finals a season ago.
And yet Paul's latest aggravation steals the spotlight from an uptick in performance in Houston as the Rockets have quietly won 6 of 7 with the only loss coming by two points on the road in Miami on the second night of a back-to-back in the game that Paul sustained his injury. While the rest of the roster, which now includes Austin Rivers, sorts itself out, James Harden continues to elevate his play and is now averaging 37.8 points, 8.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game over his last eight games.
9. Los Angeles Lakers
Last week's ranking: 7th
Overall record: 19-14
Last week: 1-2 (Lost at Nets, Won vs Pelicans, Lost vs Grizzlies)
This week: at Warriors, at Kings, Clippers, Kings
Brandon Ingram returned to the lineup in the win over the Pelicans, scoring 18 points on 6-14 shooting and finished a team-best +16 in an 8-point win. He followed that up with a 20-point performances against the Grizzlies. Although all of the attention this week will surely be on the Christmas Day matchup with Golden State, Ingram's continued re-introduction into the rotation is the most important thing to keep an eye on in the immediate future.
One potential wrinkle worth monitoring? Will Ingram and Kuzma share the floor in times LeBron James is off the floor? It didn't happen in Ingram's two first games back but in the incredibly small sample of 41 minutes, the Lakers have outscored opponents by 17 points per 100 possessions.
8. Boston Celtics
Last week's ranking: 6th
Overall record: 19-13
Last week: 1-2 (Lost vs Suns, Lost vs Bucks, Won vs Hornets)
This week: vs 76ers, at Rockets, at Grizzlies
Not a great week for the Celtics who blew a double-digit lead at home agains the Suns and followed that up with a listless performance against the Bucks in a game they trailed by as many as 26 in the first half despite getting out to a 10-1 lead. Despite those struggles, the Celtics have still won 9 of 12 overall. Over that stretch, the four-man group of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris has outscored teams by 30.6 points per 100 possessions in 139 minutes.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
Last week's ranking: 9th
Overall record: 22-12
Last week: 2-1 (Lost at Spurs, Won vs Knicks, Won vs Raptors)
This week: at Celtics, at Jazz, at Trail Blazers
Chalk this up as a strange week for the 76ers who were blown out in San Antonio by 27 before returning home for a pair of blowout wins over the Knicks and Raptors. Though it's tough to put too much stock into what transpired on the floor in the win over Toronto, it was significant in the sense that they still have a chance to even the season series after dropping the first two meetings. Home court could prove substantial in an evenly matched series in either the Conference Semifinals or Conference Finals. The fourth and final meeting on February 5 is a circle the date game.
6. Indiana Pacers
Last week's ranking : 8th
Overall record: 22-12
Last week: 2-2 (Lost vs Cavaliers, Lost at Raptors, Won at Nets, Won vs Wizards)
This week: at Hawks, vs Pistons
What a missed opportunity for the Pacers who came oh-so-close to entering Christmas on an 11-game win streak. The loss at the buzzer to the Cavaliers hurt as did the blown 13-point lead in the fourth quarter the very next day against the Raptors. Had the Pacers finished the job in each end of that back-to-back, they'd be in first place in the East and looking at top three status in this week's power rankings.
The missed opportunities down the stretch are even more jarring considering that the Pacers ranked first in the NBA in clutch-time net rating entering the week. Yes, clutch-time stats are often the result of small sample size theatre but it still looked odd watching Victor Oladipo and Co. lose late after clobbering teams by 33.0 points per 100 possessions entering those two losses.
5. Toronto Raptors
Last week's ranking : 4th
Overall record: 25-10
Last week: 2-1 (Won vs Pacers, Won vs Cavaliers, Lost at 76ers)
This week: at Heat, at Magic, vs Bulls
Following the win over the Cavaliers on December 1, the Raptors were 20-4 and enjoyed a four game lead atop the Eastern Conference. They've gone just 5-6 since as the Bucks have pulled even in the loss column with the Pacers, 76ers and Celtics now all within striking distance. During that 11-game funk, the Raptors rank just 19th in offensive rating after ranking 2nd in the NBA over their first 24 games.
MORE: Kawhi Leonard not far from playing back-to-backs
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week's ranking: 5th
Overall record: 21-11
Last week: 3-1 (Won vs Bulls, Won at Kings, Won at Jazz, Lost vs Timberwolves)
This week: at Rockets, at Suns, at Mavericks
Paul George is a man on a mission. Any time you can average 35.3 points, 11.3 rebounds 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game on 52% shooting (47% from 3!), I'd say you're playing pretty well. That's what PG13 did last week, continuing what's been by far the best season of his career.
86 points in the last 2 games. Yikes @Yg_Trece pic.twitter.com/YN9Y5g2E2M- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 23, 2018
MORE: Should Paul George be an All-Star starter?
How rare were his back-to-back gems against Sacramento and Utah? Over the last 35 years, the only other players to finish with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in back-to-back games are James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Vince Carter and Michael Jordan. Here's hoping Santa brings a whole lot more than stocking stuffers for Paul George on Christmas.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Last week's ranking : 3rd
Overall record: 22-10
Last week: 3-1 (Won at Pistons, Won vs Pelicans, Won at Celtics, Lost at Heat)
This week: at Knicks, vs Knicks, vs Nets
Much like the Houston Rockets, the only hiccup in the way of a perfect week was a loss to the surging Miami Heat on the second night of a back-to-back in a game that Giannis Antetokounmpo had his worst game of the season, just nine points on 3-12 shooting. Despite the off night, the Greek Freak is still the comfortable leader in the clubhouse in the MVP race. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Antetokounmpo has a 1 in 3 shot of wining the MVP as it stands right now , over twice as good of odds as anyone else.
MORE: How will Giannis stack up with other superstar Christmas debuts?
There's no better player to start off the Christmas Day hoops festivities than Giannis Antetokounmpo who is playing on Christmas for the very first time.
2. Golden State Warriors
Last week's ranking: 2nd
Overall record: 23-11
Last week: 3-1 (Won vs Grizzlies, Lost vs Jazz, Won vs Mavericks, Won vs Clippers)
This week: vs Lakers, vs Trail Blazers, at Trail Blazers
Had the Warriors gone perfect and won in Utah, they would have reclaimed the throne in this week's power rankings. Instead, they'll just have to settle for Stephen Curry heroics.
That shot marked just the third time in his career that Curry has hit a go-ahead shot in the final two seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.
There's this from WAY downtown against Oklahoma City in 2016.
And then this one-on-one bucket over Shawn Marion and the Mavericks in 2014.
1. Denver Nuggets
Last week's ranking : 1st
Overall record : 21-10
Last week : 3-1 (Won vs Thunder, Won vs Raptors, Won vs Mavericks, Lost at Clippers)
This week: at Spurs, vs Spurs, at Suns
In a week that saw pretty much every good team serve up a dud, we'll forgive the Nuggets for the shellacking at Staples Center against the Clippers, especially given it came on the heels of a 3-0 start to the week with three wins against very respectable opponents.
Here's a stat that makes Denver's season all the more remarkable. According to Spotrac's injury tracker, Nuggets players have combined to miss 139 games this season, most by any team in the NBA.
It's frightening to imagine what the Nuggets will look like when actually healthy. Gary Harris and Will Barton are practicing but have yet to return. Isaiah Thomas has yet to make his season debut. Paul Millsap is still sideline for the foreseeable future.
Rest of the NBA
11. Portland Trail Blazers
12. Sacramento Kings
13. LA Clippers
14. San Antonio Spurs
15. Miami Heat
This time a week ago, the Heat say 23rd in these same rankings. With their win streak up to five games and back to .500 overall, the Heat are this week's biggest risers. They've done it with defense and by controlling tempo as they rank 3rd in defensive efficiency and 28th in pace during the streak which helps offset the fact that they rank just 26th in scoring over that same stretch. Prior to these five games, Miami ranked among the top 10 league-wide in pace. How Erik Spoelstra pulls the strings is worth monitoring down in South Beach.
16. Charlotte Hornets
17. Memphis Grizzlies
Without a doubt the highlight of the week for Memphis was Jaren Jackson Jr. sticking the dagger over LeBron James to ice the win over the Lakers.
⚫️🦄 > 👑 pic.twitter.com/F8PIGYVX6H- Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) December 24, 2018
18. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks are this week's biggest faller, slipping eight spots all the way down to 18th. Although Luka Doncic continues to make waves whether it be drawing praise from Draymond Green following a loss or forcing overtime with impossible buzzer-beaters, the hype can't ignore the fact that Dallas has lost six straight games, the NBA's longest active losing streak.
19. Utah Jazz
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
21. Brooklyn Nets
22. Detroit Pistons
23. New Orleans Pelicans
24. Orlando Magic
25. Washington Wizards
26. Atlanta Hawks
27. Phoenix Suns
28. Chicago Bulls
29. New York Knicks
30. Cleveland Cavaliers