NBA Power Rankings – What LeBron James’ injury means for our latest update, plus a new No. 1 rises

LeBron Jameshigh ankle sprain — combined with Anthony Davis‘ continued right leg issues — has a massive impact on the Western Conference playoff picture. What does it mean for our NBA Power Rankings moving forward?

Add in the fact that the NBA-best Utah Jazz are showing signs of a midseason funk, and the race for No. 1 in the West is wide open.

In the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the streaking Milwaukee Bucks have rediscovered the formula that has led to back-to-back regular-season crowns. Milwaukee now sits just two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the East lead behind six straight wins, but the Bucks aren’t the biggest story in the conference right now.

The Atlanta Hawks are winners of eight straight, including a victory Saturday over the Lakers in the game LeBron exited early. Can Trae Young & Co. hold on to a top-four seed?

Here’s where our panel sees all 30 teams right now.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin, Eric Woodyard, Royce Young and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13

1. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 record: 30-13
Previous ranking: 4

Philly has maintained the top spot in the Eastern Conference without Joel Embiid for the past week, picking up three wins to stay a game ahead of the Nets. They head west this week — including two games in L.A. against the Lakers and Clippers — as president of basketball operations Daryl Morey weighs how big of a swing he should take to increase his team’s chances of making it out of the East. — Bontemps

This week: @GSW, @LAL, @LAC


2. Utah Jazz
2020-21 record: 30-11
Previous ranking: 1

Since Utah’s 24-5 start, the Jazz are 6-6 and rank 21st in defensive efficiency during that span (113.9 points allowed per 100 possessions). “We need to understand that we haven’t accomplished s—,” Rudy Gobert said Thursday after a loss to the Wizards. “We get upset when people laugh at us on TV and disrespect us. It’s on us to respect ourselves. We’re not the champions. We’re not a team that can just cruise and turn it on come playoff time. We have to stay hungry.” — MacMahon

This week: @CHI, BRK, MEM, MEM


3. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 record: 29-14
Previous ranking: 2

Blake Griffin debuted Sunday against the Wizards, and he did the most important thing: He dunked. It has become a bit of a deal that he hadn’t done his signature thing since 2019, and after assuring ESPN’s Malika Andrews last week that he absolutely still could, the former Lob City mayor threw one down, and did it to score his first points as a Net. He played 15 minutes, took two shots, scored two points and grabbed two boards. His role will grow as he acclimates, but the Nets aren’t in need of too much from Griffin. If he can turn back the clock even a little, that’s a pretty big X factor to have off the bench. — Young

This week: @POR, @UTA, @DET


4. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 record: 28-13
Previous ranking: 3

In Sunday’s game against the Lakers, Suns point guard Chris Paul joined an exclusive club. With his ninth assist, Paul became the sixth player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career assists, joining John Stockton (15,806), Jason Kidd (12,091), Steve Nash (10,335), Mark Jackson (10,334) and Magic Johnson (10,141). At his current average, Paul will pass Johnson later this season. — Lopez

This week: @MIA, @ORL, @TOR, @CHA


5. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 record: 27-14
Previous ranking: 7

Sunday was a well-deserved off day for Milwaukee. After Saturday’s win over San Antonio, the Bucks have won six straight and 11 of their past 12 games as they take aim at getting back atop the Eastern Conference. With their recent success, the narrative around this team is whether it will translate to the playoffs, but for now that’s fine with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I kinda like that we’re under the radar,” he said after the Spurs game. — Woodyard

This week: IND, BOS, BOS, NYK


6. LA Clippers
2020-21 record: 27-16
Previous ranking: 6

Head coach Ty Lue moved Marcus Morris Sr. into the starting five with Nicolas Batum coming off the bench in an effort to get the Clippers to play more consistently, and they’ve held their past three opponents to an average of 100.6 points. The Clippers can use some help at point guard, especially with Patrick Beverley (knee) out, so it remains to be seen whether they are able to do anything with their limited trade assets at the deadline. The Clippers, though, are in a stretch of playing 11 of 13 games at home, giving Lue’s team more practice time as it waits for injured starters Serge Ibaka (back) and Beverley to return. — Youngmisuk

This week: ATL, @SAS, @SAS, PHI


7. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 record: 28-15
Previous ranking: 5

The defending champions started Markieff Morris, Wesley Matthews, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schroder on Sunday against the Suns, ending their weekend with back-to-back losses. Times are tough for the Lakers, with LeBron James out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain, Anthony Davis (calf strain and tendinosis) sidelined at least another week and Marc Gasol still working to get his wind back after missing a couple of weeks because of health and safety protocols. “These challenges strengthen you throughout the course of a season … and will benefit you come playoff time,” head coach Frank Vogel said. — McMenamin

This week: @NOP, PHI, CLE, ORL


8. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 record: 25-17
Previous ranking: 8

Nikola Jokic‘s MVP campaign continues to look stronger, especially with Joel Embiid and LeBron James sidelined due to injury. The Nuggets won three straight before losing to New Orleans despite another triple-double from Jokic. Before being held to 108 points by the Pelicans, Michael Malone’s offense averaged 127 points during the streak. Michael Porter Jr. continues to have a hot hand, shooting 50% or better in 12 of his last 14 games. Denver, though, hits the road for three straight games this week, and the bench can use the injured Monte Morris back. — Youngmisuk

This week: @ORL, @TOR, @NOP, ATL


9. Portland Trail Blazers
2020-21 record: 25-17
Previous ranking: 9

The Blazers are close to being whole again after CJ McCollum returned last week. It’s a process in getting him all the way back, though, with reduced minutes and return-to-play management. But he showed all the signs the Blazers need with 32 points against the Mavs on Friday. Damian Lillard has shouldered so much of the load to this point that there’s concern about late-season fatigue, especially as the schedule crunches. With McCollum, and possibly some of the more developed role players, that burden will be eased. — Young

This week: BRK, @MIA, @ORL, @TOR


10. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 record: 22-19
Previous ranking: 10

Luka Doncic scored 117 points over the past three games, shooting 59.5% from the floor and 54.5% from 3-point range in that span. It’s the second-highest-scoring three-game stretch in franchise history, trailing only a 118-point, three-game run Doncic had last month. “When you feel like this, everything’s great,” Doncic said after scoring 37 points over three quarters (and hitting his first eight 3-point attempts) during Sunday’s rout in Portland. — MacMahon

This week: @MIN, IND, @NOP


11. Miami Heat
2020-21 record: 22-21
Previous ranking: 11

The Heat had won 11 of 12 before dropping three straight to close the week. The surprise was that the re-energized group dropped back-to-back contests at home against the Pacers — a team they swept out of the bubble playoffs last season. Miami needs Tyler Herro to get back on track — he’s just 16-for-55 (29%) over his past four games. — Friedell

This week: PHO, POR, @CHA


12. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 record: 22-17
Previous ranking: 13

San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson had himself quite the performance Thursday against the Cavaliers. Johnson finished with 23 points and 21 rebounds — including 11 offensive boards — in the Spurs’ win. Johnson became the first Spur since Tim Duncan in 2013 to record a 20-point, 20-rebound game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Johnson became the first player listed at 6-foot-5 or shorter to have 11 offensive rebounds in a game since Adrian Dantley did it for the Jazz on April 6, 1985. — Lopez

This week: CHA, LAC, LAC, CHI


13. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 record: 22-20
Previous ranking: 17

Atlanta continued its winning ways under new interim coach Nate McMillan, with a win over the Lakers on Saturday marking its eighth straight. McMillan’s eight wins are the most for an interim coach after taking over for a team since Lawrence Frank started 13-0 for the New Jersey Nets in 2003-04. The Hawks are also doing it in a variety of ways, including stepping up their defense. Since McMillan took over on March 2, the Hawks have the league’s second-best defensive rating at 105.2. — Lopez

This week: @LAC, @SAC, @GSW, @DEN


14. Boston Celtics
2020-21 record: 21-21
Previous ranking: 12

After ugly losses to Cleveland and Sacramento, Boston bounced back and beat Orlando on Sunday. Now the Celtics embark on a four-game road trip that includes a pair of prime-time showdowns in Milwaukee on Wednesday and Friday with the NBA’s trade deadline looming — and everyone in Boston waiting to see whether Danny Ainge is going to use the $28 million trade exception to improve the roster. — Bontemps

This week: @MEM, @MIL, @MIL, @OKC


15. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 record: 22-21
Previous ranking: 14

A 2-2 week isn’t bad given all the Warriors’ injuries and COVID-19 issues. Stephen Curry missed two games because of a bruised tailbone. James Wiseman, Eric Paschall and Kevon Looney all missed time because of health and safety protocols. The good news: Second-year guard Jordan Poole continues to play well and is earning more minutes almost every time he hits the floor. Since returning from the G League bubble on March 1, Poole is averaging 20.9 points a game. — Friedell

This week: PHI, @SAC, ATL


16. New York Knicks
2020-21 record: 21-22
Previous ranking: 15

All four games the Knicks played this week were within five points — including a one-point win over Orlando on Friday and a one-point loss to Philadelphia on Sunday. In a difficult second-half schedule, every shot at a win matters, which makes the two games against Washington this week important, as New York tries to stay out of the play-in games in a compacted East playoff race. — Bontemps

This week: WAS, WAS, @MIL


17. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 record: 20-21
Previous ranking: 16

With LaMelo Ball expected to miss the rest of the season because of a fractured right wrist, the Hornets face the kind of injury that can derail a team’s season. Not only was Ball the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, there was an excitement around his game that made the Hornets nationally relevant for the first time in years. With Ball out, it will be up to Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward to pick up even more slack offensively. The issue for the Hornets, as it has been all year, is that their defense remains porous. They come into Monday’s game against the Spurs having given up at least 116 points in four straight games. — Friedell

This week: @SAS, @HOU, MIA, PHX


18. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 record: 19-22
Previous ranking: 18

Before an overtime win over Miami, Indiana had lost four of its past five games and eight of its past 10 as it searches for answers even with the addition of Caris LeVert. Indiana has dropped to ninth place in the Eastern Conference — it headed into Sunday’s slate with a 54.4% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index. — Woodyard

This week: @MIL, DET, @DAL


19. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 record: 19-20
Previous ranking: 19

Ja Morant‘s jump shot is the glaring flaw in the developing star point guard’s game. He’s shooting only 22.9% on 3-pointers this season, the lowest clip by a significant margin among the 182 players with at least 100 attempts. That allows defenders to consistently go under screens when Morant runs pick-and-roll, daring him to shoot and mitigating the advantage of his rare explosiveness. According to NBA.com/stats, Morant is averaging 0.82 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler, ranking 36th in efficiency among 41 players with at least 200 such possessions. — MacMahon

This week: BOS, @OKC, @UTA, @UTA


20. Chicago Bulls
2020-21 record: 19-22
Previous ranking: 22

All-Star guard Zach LaVine continued to play lights-out with 19 30-point games this season, third most in the NBA behind Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard. However, the Bulls continue to tweak their lineup and rotations to try to find sustainable success, such as using Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young as starters instead of Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. — Woodyard

This week: UTA, CLE, @SAS


21. New Orleans Pelicans
2020-21 record: 18-24
Previous ranking: 21

Once again, it was an up-and-down week for the Pelicans. On Tuesday, the Pelicans gave away a 17-point lead in the final six minutes to the Trail Blazers and then dropped an eight-point game to Portland two days later. They responded with a 113-108 victory at Denver on Sunday, bouncing back without starting point guard Lonzo Ball (right hip flexor strain). Against the Nuggets, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson each had 30 points. It was the third time they’d done so in the same game this season, tied for the most in the league among any duo, according to ESPN Stats & Information. — Lopez

This week: LAL, DEN, DAL


22. Toronto Raptors
2020-21 record: 17-25
Previous ranking: 20

The Raptors have lost eight in a row, including a dispiriting loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday after blowing yet another lead in the final two minutes Friday against Utah. After plummeting to 11th in the East, we’ll see whether Toronto will decide to part ways with Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell between now and Thursday’s trade deadline. — Bontemps

This week: @HOU, DEN, PHO, POR


23. Oklahoma City Thunder
2020-21 record: 18-24
Previous ranking: 23

Sunday’s game against the Rockets had an unstoppable force versus an immovable object kind of vibe, but not in a good way. The Rockets were on a 19-game losing streak. The Thunder had four starters sitting and started the second-youngest lineup in NBA history. Houston was still a 4.5-point favorite at tipoff, but if we’ve learned anything from OKC this season, it could start two members off its PR staff and probably still be competitive. Sunday, it was Lu Dort scoring 23 and coming up with a game-winning block. There’s something about the Thunder’s ability to play within a system and maximize their roster that has an extremely Spursian feel. — Young

This week: @MIN, MEM, BOS


24. Sacramento Kings
2020-21 record: 17-25
Previous ranking: 25

More than halfway through the season, Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton says Sacramento is still searching for itself. “I don’t know that we’ve found our identity yet,” Haliburton told reporters after a loss to Philadelphia on Saturday. “I don’t know that we’ve found exactly what makes us play our best basketball.” The quote is apt for the week the Kings had: going 2-2 amid their six-game road trip and finding out that Marvin Bagley III will not require surgery on his fractured left hand, but will still be out at least another month. Not the best, not the worst. — McMenamin

This week: @CLE, ATL, GSW, CLE


25. Washington Wizards
2020-21 record: 15-26
Previous ranking: 24

The Wizards are heading in the wrong direction after appearing to turn their season around. Since winning seven of eight games in February, Washington has dropped eight of its past 10. And it doesn’t get any easier: The Wizards’ loss in Brooklyn on Sunday started a 14-game stretch that includes 10 on the road. They are five games out of the eighth spot and will be without sharpshooter Davis Bertans for the next few weeks because of injury. — Youngmisuk

This week: @NYK, @NYK, DET


26. Cleveland Cavaliers
2020-21 record: 16-26
Previous ranking: 26

What you loved about the Cavs’ win over the Raptors on Sunday was Collin Sexton (36 points, 4 assists, 2 steals) and Darius Garland (15 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) filling up the box score. What you hated about Cleveland’s young backcourt performance? The duo combined for 12 of the Cavs’ 26 turnovers — a wild number that kept the Raptors within reach despite Cleveland being red-hot from deep (17-for-33 for 51.5%). — McMenamin

This week: SAC, @CHI, @LAL, @SAC


27. Orlando Magic
2020-21 record: 14-28
Previous ranking: 27

Let’s start with the good news. The Magic pulled off a surprise win over the Nets on Friday, which included 38 points in 36 minutes from Aaron Gordon and snapped a nine-game losing skid. The bad news: The Magic are now 14-28, above only the Pistons in the East. The biggest question left for this team this season may be whatever the front office decides to do before Thursday’s trade deadline. — Friedell

This week: DEN, PHX, POR, @LAL


28. Detroit Pistons
2020-21 record: 12-30
Previous ranking: 28

One of the highlights this week for the Pistons was handing the Rockets their franchise-worst 19th straight loss on Friday night. For a Motown team in the midst of rebuilding, the Pistons have to celebrate all of their wins and use them as opportunities for growth. Detroit also beat Toronto on Wednesday behind 28 points and 12 rebounds from rookie forward Saddiq Bey. — Woodyard

This week: @IND, BRK, @WAS


29. Minnesota Timberwolves
2020-21 record: 10-32
Previous ranking: 30

Before the draft, the feeling was there was no true No. 1 overall caliber prospect and the lottery in general was weak. But Anthony Edwards is looking every bit a top pick type of player. His 42 points against the Suns was the exclamation point on what’s been a breakout month: “Ant-Man” is averaging 26.1 points per game in March, setting and resetting career highs almost nightly. — Young

This week: OKC, DAL, HOU, HOU


30. Houston Rockets
2020-21 record: 11-30
Previous ranking: 29

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rockets now own an unfortunate NBA record: the longest losing streak by a team that began the streak over .500. Houston has lost 20 straight since an 11-10 start. The spotlight leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline is on Victor Oladipo, whose post-All-Star-break performance (25.0 points and 5.6 assists per game, 46.4% from the floor) might boost his trade value. — MacMahon

This week: TOR, CHA, @MIN, @MIN

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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