Here is a look at the NBA Power Rankings through Week 12 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, January 7.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
Last week's ranking: 13
Overall record: 23-17
Last week: 2-1 (Won at Kings, lost vs Thunder, Won vs Rockets)
This week: Knicks, Bulls, Hornets, at Nuggets
Let's start with a quick blind resume:
These seasons are nearly identical and it's nearly impossible to distinguish the two.
All things equal, if Player A was named 1st-Team All-NBA then Player B should get the same consideration.
Player A was Damian Lillard per 36 minutes last season.
Player B is Damian Lillard per 36 minutes this season.
Maybe it's because we've seen this movie before. Maybe it's because of what happened to Portland in last year's playoffs. But regardless, it seems as if Lillard isn't receiving enough attention.
In his seventh season, he's working with career averages of over 23 points and six assists per game. The entire list of players do to that through seven seasons? Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, Hall of Famer Dave Bing, Hall of Famer Tiny Archibald, future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade and future Hall of Famer LeBron James.
For this season and beyond, let's all agree to give Dame some more consistent love. Good talk.
9. Boston Celtics
Last week's ranking: 8
Overall record: 23-15
Last week: 2-1 (Lost at Spurs, Won vs Timberwolves, Won vs Mavericks)
This week: Nets, Pacers, at Heat, at Magic
Entering the season, you could make a case that the Celtics were the second-best team in the NBA behind the Warriors. Sure, there was plenty to prove with the returns of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but top-to-bottom the talent was there.
We're in January and it feels like the entire season has been one marred by underachievement. And yet as it stands, the Celtics have the NBA's second-best scoring marging at +6.2. Even if you throw out the 56-point win over the Bulls, they'd still have the sixth-best in the league.
All this to say: it's way too early to worry about Boston.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
Last week's ranking: 9
Overall record: 26-14
Last week: 3-0 (Won at Clippers, Won at Suns, Won vs Mavericks)
This week: Wizards, at Wizards, Hawks, at Knicks
In the two games that Jimmy Butler missed last week, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons did plenty to remind everyone just how talented they are. In the win over Phoenix, Embiid finished with 42 points and 18 rebounds while Simmons poured in a season-high 29. Three days later against Dallas, Embiid went for 25-12 while Simmons served up a 20-point triple-double.
Perhaps those two games hint at bigger changes to come in Philadelphia as the 76ers are still working out how to maximize all of that talent. Since Butler made his debut, the 76ers have a net rating of +4.2 with all three of them on the floor together. Over that same span, Embiid and Simmons have played 160 minutes without Butler and torched everyone, posting a net rating of +20.5.
7. Houston Rockets
Last week's ranking: 7
Overall record: 22-16
Last week: 2-1 (Won vs Grizzlies, Won at Warriors, Lost at Trail Blazers)
This week: Nuggets, Bucks, Cavaliers, at Magic
James Harden's streak of consecutive 40-point games ended at five unceremoniously at Portland where he only managed to finish with 38 points.
MORE: Five stats you need to know about Harden's 40-point streak
He's now up to 12 straight games in which he's raised his scoring average and now has a firm grasp on winning a second straight scoring title as he holds a sizeable lead over Stephen Curry. He's certainly been tremendous but it's not all Harden. In fact over that 12-game stretch, the Rockets actually have a better scoring margin with Harden off the floor than with him on the floor.
Make no mistake, they wouldn't be surging without him and his play absolutely warrants significant praise. But Houston as a whole is looking more and more like the team that pushed the Warriors in last year's Conference Finals.
6. Indiana Pacers
Last week's ranking: 5
Overall record: 26-13
Last week: 2-1 (Won vs Hawks, Won at Bulls, Lost at Pacers)
This week: at Cavaliers, at Celtics, at Knicks
If you're making a list of players you'd most want taking the final shot, where would Victor Oladipo rank? He hit yet another game winner over the Bulls and is now shooting 62% in the clutch this season, tops among all players that have taken at least 20 of them.
Let's take it a step further. That 62% mark would be better than the career highs for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kevin Durant, all players upon first glance you'd probably take ahead of Oladipo.
5. Golden State Warriors
Last week's ranking: 3
Overall record: 26-14
Last week: 2-1 (Won at Suns, Lost vs Rockets, Won at Kings)
This week: Knicks, Bulls, at Mavericks
The Warriors and Thunder are splitting hairs this week. The Warriors blew a 20-point lead at home against the Rockets and needed some late Stephen Curry magic to avoid another double-digit blown lead to the Kings. The Thunder got rolled at home by Washington.
With almost identical records, the nod went to OKC as it has the superior point differential by a point and a half.
DeMarcus Cousins is practicing and reportedly close to making his debut which could spark a flame under the two-time defending champs. One of the biggest question marks when they signed Cousins was if he would play in crunch time or if Steve Kerr would opt for his vaunted death lineup.
The latter hasn't been great. In just 68 minutes this season, the Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Durant-Green lineup has a net rating of plus-4.2, a far cry from the +23.3 from back in 2016-17.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week's ranking: 6
Overall record: 25-14
Last week: 3-1 (Won vs Mavericks, Won at Lakers, Won at Trail Blazers, Lost vs Wizards)
This week: Timberwolves, at Spurs, Spurs
The home loss to the John Wall-less Wizards in which the Thunder were outscored in all four quarters is truly a head scratcher, especially considering it's the same team they beat 134-111 earlier this season on the road. If the Thunder miss out on hosting a playoff series by a single game, that will be a circle-the-date one to remember.
That loss aside, OKC's length remains a headache for most teams to play against. The Thunder wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor where they rank first in deflections.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Last week's ranking: 1
Overall record: 27-11
Last week: 2-1 (Won vs Pistons, Won vs Hawks, Lost vs Raptors)
This week: Jazz, at Rockets, at Wizards, at Hawks
Last week's top team drops two spots thanks to the loss to Toronto. Such is life this season when the top five teams seem to shuffle on a weekly basis.
MORE: Giannis and Harden sit 1-2 in MVP rankings
The loss to the Raptors brings to the surface perhaps THE key question with the Bucks which is outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, do they have another reliable bucket getter to help carry the load?
The Greek Freak finished with 43 points including 18 in the fourth quarter and still lost despite the Raptors playing without Kyle Lowry. When the MVP front runner goes for 43-18 at home, that's a game Milwaukee needs to win. Whereas Kawhi Leonard received help from Pascal Siakam (30 points), no other Bucks player scored more than 15 points.
Milwaukee's second leading scorer in the second half? Sterling Brown with nine points. On the other end, Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green scored in double figures in the second half alone to help buoy a big performance from Leonard.
2. Toronto Raptors
Last week's ranking: 4
Overall record: 30-12
Last week: 3-1 (Won vs Jazz, Lost at Spurs, Won at Bucks, Won vs Pacers)
This week: Hawks, Nets, at Wizards
The back-to-back wins over Milwaukee (without Kyle Lowry) and Indiana (without Kawhi Leonard) were perhaps the biggest statement wins of the season for the Raptors given the logjam towards the top of the Eastern Conference. Yes, the win at Oracle Arena was big but given how the regular-season Warriors aren't shaping up to be the same juggernaut we've grown accustomed to, a pair of wins over two teams in direct competition for home court in the East is as good as it gets.
The Raptors once again have the NBA's best record and had it not been for the no-show in Leonard's return to San Antonio in which they fell down by 23 in the first quarter and were never in the game, they would have been sitting atop this week's power rankings.
1. Denver Nuggets
Last week's ranking: 2
Overall record: 26-11
Last week: 3-0 (Won vs Knicks, Won at Kings, Won vs Hornets)
This week: at Rockets, at Heat, Clippers, at Suns, Trail Blazers
Among this week's top seven, the Nuggets were the only team to take care of business in every game. Nikola Jokic rattled off perhaps his best week of the season, opening it up with 19 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds against the Knicks before going for 26 points and 13 rebounds in a tight win over the Kings and a season-high 39 points at home against Charlotte.
With him on the floor last week, the Nuggets outscored their opponents by 26 points while posting an offensive rating of 124.9. With him off the floor, they were outscored by 2 with an offence that scored only 100 points per 100 possessions, a figure that for the season would rank last in the NBA.
Simply calling Jokic an All-Star and difference maker has become perhaps the understatement of the season. He's the real deal.
A gruelling stretch now looms as Denver plays five games in seven days beginning with a difficult back-to-back at Houston and at Miami.
Rest of the NBA
11. LA Clippers
12. San Antonio Spurs
13. Utah Jazz
14. Miami Heat
15. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are now 1-5 without LeBron James who continues to miss time with a strained groin. Since James has been out of the lineup, the Lakers rank dead last in the NBA in offensive efficiency.
16. Brooklyn Nets
17. Charlotte Hornets
18. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Tom Thibodeau era is over in Minnesota as he was fired following Minnesota's win over the Lakers. After winning 31 games in his first season in 2016-17, Thibodeau led the Timberwolves to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003-04, breaking the second-longest playoff drought in NBA history.
MORE: Thibs out in Minnesota
19. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are hoping that one bad week doesn't spell doom as they try to end a 12-year postseason drought, currently the longest active streak in the league. After the win at the buzzer over the Lakers on December 27, the Kings were 19-16 and tied for eighth in the Western Conference. Now on a four-game losing streak, the Kings sit in 10th place and have just a 2.1 percent chance of making the playoffs according to Inpredictable.com.
20. New Orleans Pelican
21. Dallas Mavericks
22. Detroit Pistons
23. Memphis Grizzlies
24. Washington Wizards
25. Orlando Magic
26. Atlanta Hawks
27. Chicago Bulls
28. New York Knicks
29. Phoenix Suns
30. Cleveland Cavaliers