A couple of good wins have put the Philadelphia 76ers back on top of our rankings.
Joel Embiid and the 76ers have won four consecutive games, the last three against playoff teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz have lost their last four games, including a 12-point loss in overtime against a Los Angeles Lakers team that is without injured stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
There are a lot of errant teams in the Eastern Conference right now: The Boston Celtics, who have an appointment in this contest, have won six consecutive games and are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for fourth place.
The New York Knicks continue to impress, as they have won six games in a row and finished the season at .500 for the first time since 2012-13, according to ESPN’s Stats & Data collection.
And the Washington Wizards have won four in a row thanks to strong performances from Russell Westbrook.
There are only four weeks left in the 2020-21 regular season. Here’s how our panel sees the 30 NBA teams right now.
Message: During the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim McMahon, Dave McMahon, Royce Young and ESPN’s Om Youngmisuk) reviews the 30 teams from top to bottom, assessing which ones are currently playing their best basketball and which ones are most likely to contend for the title.
Previous reviews: 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, week 14, week 15, week 16, week 17.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 Record: 39-17
Previous ranking: 4
The last seven days have been great for the Sixers, who are already three games ahead of the Nets (including tiebreakers) for first place in the Eastern Conference with 16 games to go. Philadelphia now has a chance to claim first place and will only need to beat Brooklyn or Milwaukee to advance to the Eastern Conference playoffs. Still, Milwaukee has two games this week that, if the Sixers lose, could reignite the race. — Bontemps
This week: GSW, PHO, @MIL
2. Utah Jazz
2020-21 Record: 42-15Previous ranking: 1
Donovan Mitchell is expected to miss a few games with a sprained right ankle, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Jazz face a tough test. Utah is 3-1 in games Mitchell has missed this season and rebounded in the second half to beat the Pacers after getting injured Friday. The only defeat came in overtime Saturday against the Lakers, when All-Star teammates Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley were also absent for the second game in a row. Utah’s starting lineup with Joe Ingles replacing Mitchell has a plus-18 record in 54 minutes. — McMahon.
This week: @LAL, @HOU, MIN
3. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 Record: 40-16
Previous Rating: 2
Phoenix’s 10-game home winning streak against the Spurs came to an end on Saturday, but the Suns still ended the week half a game behind the Jazz for first place in the Western Conference. Suns defenseman Chris Paul took another step forward by moving into fifth place on the all-time stolen games list, passing Cheeks Maurice. Paul has moved up to sixth on the all-time list this season, and he can quickly move up to fifth, as he is just nine doubles away from passing Magic Johnson. — Lopez.
This week: @MIL, @PHI, @BOS, @BRK
4. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 Record: 38-19
Previous assessment : 3
It was a tough week for the Nets, who (A) lost their battle with the Sixers for first place in the East, (B) can’t count on LaMarcus Aldridge, who abruptly resigned due to a health issue, (C) are without Kevin Durant – again – after he injured his left hip Sunday against the Heat, and (D) lost in Miami after a heartbreaking phone call from Bam Adebayo. — Young
This week: @NOP, @TOR, FOREST, PHO
5. LA Clippers
2020-21 Record: 40-19Previous: 5
The Philadelphia Clippers snapped their seven-game winning streak on Friday, but Kawhi Leonard did not play because of a leg injury. Over the course of this series, there have been a few notable events for the Clippers that could pay off in the playoffs. Paul George has regained the groove of a comeback season, scoring 30 or more points in five consecutive games. With Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac, Rajon Rondo, Terence Mann, Luke Kennard and Patrick Patterson, several key players were absent. The key issues for coach Ty Liu’s team heading into the finish line are health (Leonard is back, but Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka remain disabled), developing chemistry and continuity – especially if they return at full strength – and seeds, as the Clips keep the pressure on Utah and Phoenix at the top of the West. -Youngomisuk
This week: @POR, MEM, @HOU
6. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 Record: 35-21
Previous Assessment : 7
This is an important week for the Bucks, who are four games behind the 76ers for first place and two in the loss to the Nets for second place in the Eastern Conference standings. With games against Phoenix on Monday and home games against Philadelphia on Thursday and Saturday, we can see how good the new Bucks really are. — Bontemps
This week: FI, FI, @ATL
7. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 Record: 35-22
Previous Review: 8
In June 2019, Snoop Dogg dropped bars during an appearance on ESPN’s First Take that didn’t make the iTunes charts, but sounded good to Lakers fans. AD is on his way, he sang as a guest on set. That’s the song Lakers Nation wants to hammer into the jukebox this week, as Anthony Davis is expected to return from a two-month break to recover from a calf strain and tendinitis in his right foot. — McManaman.
This week: UTA, @DAL
8. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 Record: 36-20
Previous ranking: 6
This is the worst week of the season for the Nuggets, and it has nothing to do with wins or losses. Jamal Murray tore his left ACL in a last-minute loss against Golden State, dealing a major blow to Denver’s hopes for a title. The Nuggets, who acquired Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee to better compete with other Western Conference rivals like the Lakers and Clippers, must now try to make the Western Conference Finals without their postseason star, who can score 50 points every night. Nikola Jokic will continue to play MVP and Michael Porter Jr. will fill Denver’s No. 2 role. -Youngomisuk
This week: MADAM, @POR, @GSW, HOU
9. Boston Celtics
2020-21 Record: 31-26
Previous ranking: 13
After a season of ups and downs, the Celtics are now playing their best game, with six wins in a row and eight of their last nine. Keeping this series alive won’t get any easier this week, as a home game against Chicago awaits on Monday, followed by a brutal rematch on Thursday before Friday’s game in Brooklyn: at home against Phoenix. — Bontemps
This week: CHI, FU, @BRK, @CHA
10. Portland Trail Blazers
2020-21 Record: 32-24Prior ranking: 10
The Blazers are getting dangerously close, just two games behind the Mavericks for seventh place. They’ve lost six of their last nine games, and the upcoming schedule is relentless. The problem was that Damian Lillard wasn’t putting in his usual ridiculous performance, but as Lillard said this week, that was more due to the way opponents were adjusting to his defense than a dip in shooting. The defense forces him to pass the ball and redirect the offense to his teammates. But at some point, if the Blazers keep dropping, Lillard could start pushing the issue. And there are a few who can do better. — Young
This week: MORE, HOLLOW, MEME.
11. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 Record: 30-26
Previous Rating: 9
The Mavericks are certainly not playing like the team that deserves to avoid the qualifying tournament that Luka Doncic and Mark Cuban openly complained about last week. Dallas missed a great chance to advance to the West tournament against the Trail Blazers, but the Mavs made up for a 5-2 defeat to Portland. Doncic cited energy as the Mavs’ biggest problem, but had no solution. I don’t know, but I know it has to start with me, Doncic said Sunday after the Kings snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Mavs. — McMahon.
This week: DET, LAL
12. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 Record: 31-26
Previous ranking: 12
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Bogdan Bogdanovic, when healthy, proved to be the player the Hawks thought would be the player of the offseason. After spending much of the season derailed by injuries, Bogdanovic is now averaging 20.5 points (second on the team behind Trey Young), 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds in his last 13 games, while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 49.5 percent from 3-point range with 8.1 attempts per game, all while starting. — Lopez.
This week: ORL, @NYK, MIA, MILF
13. Miami Heat
2020-21 Record: 29-28
Previous ranking: 11
The Heat had a tough week with three consecutive defeats, including Friday night’s loss against the Timberwolves. But Bam Adebayo’s jumper at the buzzer to win against the Nets last Sunday gives the group a chance to get back on track. Six of the Heat’s next seven games are against teams under .500. Adebayo is averaging 19.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the last three games. — Friedell.
This week: HOU, @SAS, @ATL, CHI
14. New York Knicks
2020-21 Record: 31-27Previous ranking: 16
Despite one of the league’s toughest schedules in the second half of the season, the Knicks have posted a number of wins, including a dramatic victory in overtime over the Pelicans on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Now the Knicks aren’t satisfied with just a qualifying tournament, which would have been a great achievement for the season. They have a real chance to finish among the top six in the East and automatically qualify for the playoffs. — Bontemps
This week: CHA, ATL, TOR
15. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 Record: 29-26
Previous Review: 15
Grayson Allen had an important week, averaging 18.5 points and shooting 53.3 percent (including 20-of-37 from 3-point range) as the Grizzlies won three of four games. But Allen was the main culprit in the Mavericks’ loss when his two missed free throws with 2.2 seconds left left left the door open for Luka Doncic to win the game with a miracle shot at the buzzer, leading to a postgame tweet from Ja Morant chastising Grizzlies fans for beating a teammate of mine. — McMahon.
This week: @DEN, @LAC, @POR
16. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 Record: 28-28
Previous ranking: 14
Sunday’s win over the Trail Blazers, without Damian Lillard, ended the four-game losing streak and got Charlotte back on track, while still dealing with the loss of LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward. Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges continue to carry the band most nights, with Bridges trying to take the next step in his development. The 23-year-old is averaging 24 points in his last three games. — Friedell.
This week: @NYK, @CHI, CLE, BOS
17. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 Record: 28-29
Previous Classification : 20
Stephen Curry is playing one of the best basketball games of his career. Curry’s 47 points in Saturday’s loss against the Celtics put him tied with Kobe Bryant for the most consecutive 30-point games (10) for a player over 33, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Curry’s brilliance not only helped the Warriors to a four-game winning streak last week, but also helped the organization find a positive spin in a week when rookie James Wiseman had to undergo knee surgery that ended the season. — Friedell.
This week: @PHI, @WHAT, THE, BAG
18. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 Record: 27-28
Previous Classification : 17
After tough defeats against Toronto and Portland, San Antonio beat the Suns 111-85 despite rests for DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Jacob Poeltl. The NBA then fined the players $25,000 for failing to comply with the league’s requirements. San Antonio entered the game against Phoenix trailing by 12 points and won by 26. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that gives him the second-most wins by a 12-point underdog in the last 30 seasons. — Lopez.
This week: @IND, MIA, DET, @NOP
19. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 Record: 26-30
Previous Classification : 18
It’s not uncommon to see a big difference in a team’s results at home and away, but in general teams are much better in the friendly confines of their building. The Pacers have not been typical this season. Indiana is 9-16 at home, making them the only team in the Eastern Conference without 10 wins. On the other hand, the Pacers have 17 wins on the road, which puts them in first place in the East along with Milwaukee and Philadelphia. — Lopez.
This week: SAS, OKC, DET, @ORL
20. New Orleans Pelicans
2020-21 Record: 25-32
Previous ranking: 19
The Pelicans squandered a six-point lead Sunday against the Knicks (1:48) and lost in overtime, thanks in part to two bad mistakes on the Knicks’ final play of the game in regulation. According to ESPN Stats & Information, this is the sixth time in Pelicans history that the team led by six points with less than two minutes left and did not win. Also with the Pelicans for the second time this season; also lost to the Pacers on the 4th. January. — Lopez.
This week: BRK, @ORL, SAS.
21. Toronto Raptors
2020-21 Record: 24-34
Previous ranking: 23
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The zombie bullies aren’t going away. Even with all the disasters that have befallen the team in recent weeks, Toronto is still in last place in the East after winning three games in a row last week. The schedule doesn’t allow them to move up easily, but if the Raptors can get the 10th spot, they can. place, they should have more than enough to hold off Chicago and Washington. — Bontemps
This week: BRK, @NYK
22. Washington Wizards
2020-21 Record: 23-33
Previous ranking: 24
Don’t look now, but the Wizards’ roller coaster is heading in the right direction again. And at exactly the right time. Thanks to Russell Westbrook’s triple-double, the Wizards have won four games in a row and six of their last seven. Westbrook has hit a triple-double in 11 of his last 13 games and is averaging 22.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 11.6 assists in April. Bradley Beal is on a roll again, scoring 30 or more points in his last four games. Washington is now tied with the Bulls (23-33) and is one game behind Toronto in the win column, currently in 10th place in the East. -Youngomisuk
This week: OKC, GSW, @OKC, CLE
23. Chicago Bulls
2020-21 Record: 23-33
Previous ranking: 21
The Bulls ended their five-game winning streak on Saturday with a victory over the Cavs, but they couldn’t make up for the loss of their pivot Zach LaVine, who is out indefinitely due to COVID-19 protocol. LaVine’s absence underscores how much this team has struggled since trading Nikola Vucevic just before the trade deadline. The Bulls have scored just 4-9 points since the switch, and Lauri Markkanen is averaging just 8.4 points and 4.2 assists in 10 games. April. — Friedell.
This week: @BOS, @CLE, CHA, @MIA
24. Sacramento Kings
2020-21 Record: 23-34
Previous ranking: 22
Sunday, the Kings showed signs of life on the road against the Mavericks, winning a 121-107 game that Sacramento had never lost. Luka Doncic could have outscored De’Aaron Fox 37-30, but Fox had 12 assists and no turnovers against Doncic at 4-4. — McManaman.
This week: MIN, MIN, @GSW
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
2020-21 Record: 20-36
Previous ranking: 25
The Cavs and Warriors faced off this week, and it was a bittersweet reminder of how much has changed since their annual battles in the NBA Finals. While Stephen Curry (33 points) and Draymond Green (10 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) nearly matched their production from the good old days, Cleveland’s only survivors were Kevin Love (5 points on 2-for-10 shooting and 6 rebounds) and Matthew Dellavedova (zero points and 3 assists), who ushered in the golden age. — McManaman.
This week: @DET, CHI, @CHA, @WAS
26. Oklahoma City Thunder
2020-21 Record: 20-37
Previous ranking: 26
The Thunder have lost 10 in a row, their longest losing streak since 2008, when they lost 14 in a row in their first season in OKC (which led to PJ Carlesimo replacing head coach Scott Brooks). He dropped them to the fifth worst record in the league and a few games behind (for?) the Magic for the fourth worst record. But, as has been the case all season, even with the apparent bottom, good things happen in OKC. Luguentz Dort scored a career-high 42 points against the Jazz, followed by 26 against Detroit and 29 against Toronto. — Young
This week: @WHAT, @IND, WHAT
27. Detroit Pistons
2020-21 Record: 17-40
Previous ranking: 27
The Pistons played the Thunder last week, and Detroit won, without Jerami Grant in the lineup, thanks to some excellent performances. Former lottery pick Josh Jackson scored 29 points, while rookies Isaiah Stewart (15 points, 21 rebounds) and Saddique Bay (18 points) shined. — McManaman.
This week: CLE, @DAL, @SAS, @IND
28. Orlando Magic
2020-21 Record: 18-39
Previous Classification: 28
Wendell Carter Jr. returned the favor for the Bulls, who traded him for Nikola Vucevic last month, during Wednesday’s win. Carter scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and continues to show promise since coming to Orlando. — Friedell.
This week: @ATL, NOP, IND
29. Minnesota Timber Wolves
2020-21 Record: 15-43
Previous ranking: 29
The positive momentum that accompanied the return of D’Angelo Russell has ebbed away, but the Wolves may be encouraged by their progress under Chris Finch. They played with better pace, more discipline and more structure. And perhaps most importantly: Karl-Anthony Towns is developing with a role where he is more in space and as a creator, in the same way the Nuggets are using the skills of Nikola Jokic. — Young
This week: @SAC, @UTA
30. Houston Rockets
2020-21 Record: 15-42
Previous ranking: 30
Jae’Sean Tate, a 25-year-old forward who began his pro career in Australia, has been a constant bright spot in the Rockets’ difficult season as an All-Rookie candidate. Tate averaged 11.1 points on 52.7 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds. He joins Charlotte LaMelo Ball as the only freshman averaging at least 10 points, five rebounds and one steal. According to basketball-reference.com, Tate leads the freshman class in field goal percentage (3.7). — McMahon.
This week: @MIA, UTA, LAC, @DEN
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