We are entering Week 18 of the 2020-21 NBA season after an eventful last seven days. The Denver Nuggets have fallen in the ranks as their star point guard, Jamal Murray, suffered an unfortunate season-ending injury. The Portland Trail Blazers face a tough schedule ahead of them; they have struggled in games against strong teams. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks are solidifying their status as legitimate playoff contenders. The Boston Celtics look revived and are on one of their best runs of the season.
NBA Power Rankings 2020-21: Power Rankings through 17 weeks of NBA action
As we enter the final month of the 2020-21 NBA regular season, the anticipation for the NBA playoffs has begun. Many teams now have a guaranteed spot in the postseason, while some of the bottom-table teams are eyeing the play-in tournament for a chance at the playoffs. That being said, let's look at this week's top 5 in the NBA power rankings.
#5 Brooklyn Nets
NBA Record: 38-19 (2nd in East) | OffRtg: 117.2 (2nd) | DefRtg: 113.0 (25th)
Previous NBA Power Ranking: 3rd (↓2)
The Brooklyn Nets have had a very turbulent week. Their star point guard James Harden remains absent from the lineup as he recovers from a hamstring injury. The team does not want to rush his return as they prepare for the postseason and will need his production during the playoffs.
Kevin Durant returned from injury and looked great. Unfortunately, he was injured again and is out until further notice. His continued absence has raised questions about his health come playoff time.
The Nets lost their game against the Philadelphia 76ers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They also lost to the Miami Heat, courtesy of a game-winning buzzer-beater by Bam Adebayo.
#4 Utah Jazz
NBA Record: 42-15 (1st in West) | OffRtg: 116.7 (4th) | DefRtg: 107.8 (4th)
Previous NBA Power Ranking: 2nd (↓2)
The Utah Jazz haven't had a great week either. They lost their first home game of the 2021 calendar year. Their last loss at Vivint Arena was on December 31st, 2020. The team was also remarkably healthy for almost the entire season but were shorthanded this week. Ankle injuries to Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell meant the Jazz lost some of their scoring oomph. They also rested Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert. These factors led to a few losses this week for the Jazz.
They lost their matchup against the LeBron James-less LA Lakers in overtime after getting dominated in the paint. The Jazz also couldn't hang on for a win against the Washington Wizards as they lost 125-121 despite a 42-point night by Donovan Mitchell.
#3 Phoenix Suns
NBA Record: 40-16 (2nd in West) | OffRtg: 115.3 (7th) | DefRtg: 108.6 (5th)
Previous NBA Power Ranking: 1st (↓2)
The Phoenix Suns were having the perfect week until their bizarre loss to San Antonio. The team was blown out by 26 points and the Spurs held a 31-point lead at one point during the game. Devin Booker and Chris Paul combined for just 21 points on 9-28 shooting. Their highest scorer was Jevon Carter, who posted 17 points off the bench. This was their worst offensive game of the season and it ended their 10-game home winning streak.
They are now set to face 12 of their last 16 games of the season on the road. The Suns will play against five of the top 6 Eastern Conference teams as they begin their road trip on Monday.
#2 LA Clippers
NBA Record: 40-19 (3rd in West) | OffRtg: 117.4 (1st) | DefRtg: 110.6 (10th)
Previous NBA Power Ranking: 5th (↑3)
The LA Clippers have faced injury issues lately. The team has had Paul George and Kawhi Leonard together in only five of their last 13 games. However, keeping aside their loss to the 76ers - where Kawhi Leonard was out - they've had a pretty good week. They faced Detroit twice and their role players stepped up in their stars' absence. Marcus Morris Sr. posted 33 points in the first matchup, while Reggie Jackson dropped 29 in the second encounter, including the game-winner.
Paul George has been excellent of late. He has scored 30 or more in five of his last six games while shooting efficiently from the floor.
#1 Philadelphia 76ers
NBA Record: 39-17 (1st in East) | OffRtg: 111.8 (15th) | DefRtg: 106.6 (2nd)
Previous NBA Power Ranking: 6th (↑5)
The Philadelphia 76ers had a perfect week. They won their Eastern Conference battle with the Brooklyn Nets and hung on to the top seed of the conference. They moved 3 full games ahead of the Nets as they beat every team they played last week. Doc Rivers' defensive strategy has been nothing short of excellent this season. Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Joel Embiid and several others have been incredible on the defensive side of the floor.
They have had Ben Simmons absent due to illness. Tobias Harris was also ruled out because of a knee injury. But Joel Embiid and co. didn't let adversity get to them. The big man led his team to beat the Nets and the LA Clippers while averaging 34.5 points in his last four games.