NBA power rankings: Suns, Kings, Warriors, 76ers climb higher; Jazz, Timberwolves fall

Paul Kitagaki Jr./pkitagaki@sacbee.com

* Through games played 12/1

1. Boston Celtics (18-4)

Last week: 1

The Celtics are No. 1 in the NBA in scoring (121.9 ppg) and point differential (+8.6). They’ve won five in a row and 14 of 15 as Jayson Tatum emerges as the early frontrunner for MVP after scoring 49 points in Wednesday’s win over Miami.

2. Phoenix Suns (15-6)

Last week: 3

The Suns have won six in a row despite the absence of Chris Paul, who is out with a heel injury. Devin Booker had 44 points in Monday’s win over the Kings and 51 in Wednesday’s win over the Bulls.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (15-5)

Last week: 2

The Bucks have won four of their last five behind two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has posted five consecutive 30-point games. All-Star forward Khris Middleton (wrist) is expected to make his season debut Friday.

4. Denver Nuggets (14-7)

Last week: 6

Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have helped the Nuggets win four in a row. They will be tested on the road against the Hawks and Pelicans before coming home to face the Mavericks.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-8)

Last week: 4

The Cavs are 2-2 in their last four games with wins over the Pistons and 76ers and losses to the Bucks and Raptors. Donovan Mitchell is averaging 28.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

6. New Orleans Pelicans (13-8)

Last week: 5

The Pelicans have been trending upwards for weeks behind Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum. They’ve won four of five and seven of nine, including Wednesday’s win over the Raptors.

7. Sacramento Kings (11-9)

Last week: 9

The Kings snapped a three-game losing streak with a 137-114 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday. They’ve won eight of 11, including victories over the Cavaliers, Nets, Grizzlies and Pacers.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (12-9)

Last week: 11

The Grizzlies posted back-to-back wins over the Pelicans and Knicks before losing to the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Ja Morant is averaging 28.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.6 assists.

9. Indiana Pacers (12-9)

Last week: 10

The Pacers won seven of nine before getting blasted by the Beam Team on Wednesday in Sacramento. Tyrese Haliburton is emerging as an All-Star, averaging 19.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and a league-high 11.2 assists per game.

10. Los Angeles Clippers (13-10)

Last week: 12

The Clippers have won two of three and five of eight despite the absences of Paul George (hamstring) and Kawhi Leonard (ankle). George has appeared in 16 games this season, but Leonard has only suited up five times.

11. Philadelphia 76ers (12-10)

Last week: 19

The 76ers won three in a row and seven of nine before losing to the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Joel Embiid is averaging 31.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 blocks.

12. Atlanta Hawks (12-10)

Last week: 7

Trae Young had 30 points and 14 assists to help the Hawks snap a three-game losing streak with a win over the Magic on Wednesday. John Collins (ankle) is expected to miss at least two weeks.

13. Utah Jazz (13-11)

Last week: 8

The Jazz lost five in a row and eight of 10 before Jordan Clarkson poured in a season-high 33 points in a win over the Clippers on Wednesday.

14. Toronto Raptors (11-10)

Last week: 17

OG Anunoby led the Raptors to wins over the Mavericks and Cavaliers, but the Raptors couldn’t get past the Pelicans despite 35 points from Gary Trent Jr.

15. Brooklyn Nets (12-11)

Last week: 20

Kevin Durant scored 31, 45 and 39 points in consecutive wins over the Blazers, Magic and Wizards. The Nets have won six of eight after going 6-9 to start the season.

16. Golden State Warriors (11-11)

Last week: 21

The Warriors went 3-7 to start the season, but they’ve won eight of 12 behind Stephen Curry, who is averaging 31.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-11)

Last week: 14

Anthony Edwards scored 29 points to help the Timberwolves snap a three-game losing streak with a win over the Grizzlies. Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) is expected to miss four to six weeks.

18. Dallas Mavericks (10-11)

Last week: 15

MVP candidate Luka Doncic had 41 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to help the Mavericks end a four-game losing streak with a win over the Warriors on Tuesday, but then they lost to the Pistons on Thursday.

19. Washington Wizards (11-11)

Last week: 13

Kristaps Porzingis scored 41 points in a win over the Timberwolves on Monday, but the Wizards drop six spots this week after losing four of their last five games.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (11-11)

Last week: 16

Damian Lillard (calf) hopes to return Sunday vs. the Pacers. The Blazers have struggled without him, losing three in a row and seven of their last eight.

21. Miami Heat (10-12)

Last week: 23

Bam Adebayo scored 32 to help Miami win its third in a row vs. the Hawks on Sunday, but the Heat couldn’t keep it going Wednesday against the Celtics.

22. New York Knicks (10-12)

Last week: 18

Julius Randle scored 36 in a 30-point win over the Pistons on Tuesday, but the Knicks have dropped five of their last seven to fall below .500.

23. Chicago Bulls (9-12)

Last week: 22

DeMar DeRozan just keeps cooking, averaging 26.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting 52% from the field.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-13)

Last week: 24

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has scored 30+ points in eight of his last nine games, but he missed Wednesday’s win over the Spurs with a left hip contusion.

25. Los Angeles Lakers (8-12)

Last week: 25

LeBron James and Anthony Davis are both healthy at the moment and the Lakers are stringing together some victories, winning six of their last eight games.

26. Charlotte Hornets (6-15)

Last week: 26

The Hornets have won two of three with wins over the 76ers and Timberwolves after losing 11 of their previous 12 games.

27. San Antonio Spurs (6-16)

Last week: 27

The Spurs went 5-2 to start the season. Now, they’ve lost nine in a row and 14 of 15.

28. Houston Rockets (5-16)

Last week: 30

Jalen Green led the Rockets to wins over the Hawks and Thunder before Houston suffered back-to-back blowout losses to the Nuggets.

29. Orlando Magic (5-17)

Last week: 28

Paolo Banchero has returned from injury, but the Magic has lost six in a row with the Cavaliers, Raptors and Bucks awaiting.

30. Detroit Pistons (6-18)

Last week: 29

The Pistons lost three in a row and 10 of 12 before upsetting the Mavericks on Thursday.