NBA Power Rankings: Warriors make a leap; LaMelo makes history


The Golden State Warriors have won four of their past five games, including a 21-point comeback against the LA Clippers on Friday night. Stephen Curry — his 2-of-16 showing Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors notwithstanding — has found his scoring groove.

Although they aren’t the same title contenders of seasons past, the Warriors have regained the look of a team ready to make some noise in the West.

Who else is rising ahead of Week 4?

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

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 record: 8-3
Previous ranking: 1

Anthony Davis popped off following Thursday’s disheartening 118-109 loss to San Antonio, calling the Lakers’ defense “s—” and adding L.A. has no prayer of repeating with an effort like that. He returned to the lineup two games later and helped dominate Houston 120-102, recording three blocks in the process. “It wasn’t like I was fabricating it,” Davis explained. “It was the truth; we were really bad defensively. We had been bad defensively.” It might have woken up the Lakers. And if so, watch out. — McMenamin

This week: @HOU, @OKC, NOP

2. LA Clippers
2020-21 record: 7-4
Previous ranking: 2

The Clippers are at full strength for the first time this season, with Marcus Morris Sr. making his season debut last week. But they blew a 22-point, second-half lead in a loss at Golden State to conjure up haunting memories from the Florida bubble. Ty Lue’s defense allowed Zach LaVine to drill 10 3-pointers, Stephen Curry to make nine and Patty Mills to bury eight in three of the past four games. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are scoring, but defense and bench play have been inconsistent. — Youngmisuk

This week: NOP, @SAC, IND

3. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 record: 6-4
Previous ranking: 5

Giannis Antetokounmpo took a nasty fall during Friday’s loss to Utah. He missed Saturday’s contest versus Cleveland with back spasms, but the Bucks still pulled out a 100-90 win. All of Milwaukee’s six wins have come by at least 10 points this season. — Woodyard

This week: @ORL, @DET, DAL

4. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 record: 7-3
Previous ranking: 3

On Thursday morning, the Sixers had the NBA’s best record. Four days later, their roster has taken a huge hit thanks to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and a depleted Sixers team has dropped two straight games. One piece of good news: Joel Embiid will be back in the lineup Monday night in Atlanta against the reeling Hawks. — Bontemps

This week: @ATL, MIA, MIA, @MEM, @OKC

5. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 record: 7-3
Previous ranking: 7

Chris Paul continues to protect the ball, averaging just 1.7 turnovers per game to go along with 27 assists and just three giveaways in his past three games. Mikal Bridges is making an early case for Most Improved Player and is coming off a career-high 34-point effort against the Pacers on Saturday night, when he also tied his career best with six 3-pointers. — Lopez

This week: @WAS, ATL, GSW, IND

6. Boston Celtics
2020-21 record: 7-3
Previous ranking: 10

The week started out great for Boston, which won on the road against the Raptors and Heat, before coming home and beating Washington. But all of the good feelings from four straight wins — and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown playing at an All-NBA level — went away as the team faces half its roster being sidelined due to either injury or the league’s health and safety protocols for the next few days, at least. — Bontemps

This week: @CHI, ORL, ORL, NYK

7. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 record: 6-3
Previous ranking: 9

Despite Saturday’s loss, Domantas Sabonis continues to shine, posting 28 points and 22 rebounds against Phoenix. He became the first Pacers player with 25 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Jermaine O’Neal in 2003. — Woodyard

This week: @SAC, @GSW, @POR, @PHX, @LAC

8. Miami Heat
2020-21 record: 4-4
Previous ranking: 6

Miami had a 2-1 week that included 31 points from Tyler Herro in Saturday’s win over the Wizards, but Miami’s short-term future is cloudy after the postponement of Sunday’s game against the Celtics. Avery Bradley is expected to miss more than just Sunday’s game because of the league’s health and safety protocols, and this week’s two-game set with the 76ers has hurdles to clear given both teams are dealing with COVID-19 issues. — Friedell

This week: @PHI, @PHI, DET

9. Utah Jazz
2020-21 record: 6-4
Previous ranking: 8

Donovan Mitchell has started to warm up after a somewhat slow start. He averaged 27.3 points in four games last week, including a pair of 30-plus-point performances. Mitchell now has 46 career 30-point games, surpassing Karl Malone for the most in franchise history for a player before his 25th birthday, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. — MacMahon

This week: @CLE, @WAS, ATL, @DEN

10. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 record: 5-4
Previous ranking: 14

Tim Hardaway Jr. has earned a lot of respect for his professionalism, as well as his production, during the Mavs’ three-game winning streak. He responded to a role change by scoring 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting in his first game off the bench. Hardaway moved back into the starting lineup two games later, when three Mavs were forced to quarantine, and he had his highest-scoring game in a Dallas uniform with 36 points on 12-of-20 shooting. — MacMahon

This week: NOP, @CHA, @MIL, CHI

11. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 record: 5-6
Previous ranking: 4

With their roster dynamic, no one expected a season free of drama, questions, concerns or issues for the Nets. And with Kevin Durant missing three games because of COVID-19 protocols, and Kyrie Irving then missing three because of personal reasons, the Nets ended the week a game under .500. They are a ways off from any kind of panic button, but the past week has been a clear disruption. Assuming they are back to full strength soon, keep an eye on their next four — Denver, at the Knicks, Orlando and Milwaukee. — Young

This week: DEN, @NYK, ORL

12. Portland Trail Blazers
2020-21 record: 5-4
Previous ranking: 12

The Portland backcourt is rolling. But it’s been in a somewhat staggered fashion lately, with Damian Lillard going off for 39 points against the Wolves one night, then CJ McCollum dropping 37 against the Kings another night. Either Lillard or McCollum has led the Blazers in scoring in all of the Blazers’ nine games this season. The looming concern, though: Defensively, the Blazers’ bench units are a problem, which isn’t too surprising considering Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony are two top options. When Anthony and Kanter play together, the Blazers allow 115.9 points per 100 possessions. — Young

This week: TOR, @SAC, IND, ATL

13. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 record: 5-5
Previous ranking: 15

The Nuggets were supposed to get Michael Porter Jr. back from quarantine last week but ended up losing him for even longer because of health and safety protocols. Despite not having Porter, and with Jamal Murray still not looking like himself, the Nikola Jokic train is running full steam and the Nuggets have now won four of their past five. JaMychal Green has provided strong minutes and Gary Harris‘ offense has come alive on this East Coast trip. — Youngmisuk

This week: @BKN, GSW, UTA

14. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 record: 6-4
Previous ranking: 22

Stephen Curry shot a career-worst 2-for-16 … and the Warriors won? Sunday’s nail-biter over Toronto was a solid capper for a Warriors group that has stabilized after a shaky first week of the season. Andrew Wiggins has had some nice moments in the starting lineup on both ends of the floor and Eric Paschall has fit into his scoring role in the second unit. Kelly Oubre Jr. continues to struggle from the outside, though, shooting just 7-for-50 from beyond the arc. — Friedell

This week: IND, @DEN, @PHO

15. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 record: 5-5
Previous ranking: 20

DeMar DeRozan wasn’t with the Spurs in Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves, as he left the team for personal reasons, but he posted 38 points on Saturday night, tying his highest-scoring game in a San Antonio uniform. He is averaging a career high in assists per game (7.0), and he already has made as many 3-pointers in nine games this season, with nine, as he did all of last season in 68 contests — Lopez

This week: @OKC, HOU, HOU

16. Orlando Magic
2020-21 record: 6-4
Previous ranking: 16

Steve Clifford and his team must feel snakebit after seeing young guard Markelle Fultz tear his ACL during Wednesday’s win over the Cavaliers. Fultz’s injury comes just a few months after talented big man Jonathan Isaac tore his ACL in the bubble. With Fultz out, rookie Cole Anthony is going to have to grow up in a hurry as he gets more minutes. — Friedell

This week: MIL, @BOS, @BOS, @BKN

17. Houston Rockets
2020-21 record: 3-5
Previous ranking: 17

James Harden has been in a scoring slump by his standards since coming back from an ankle sprain that sidelined him for a game. He has averaged 17.8 points in the past four games, three of which were Rockets losses. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, it’s Harden’s lowest-scoring four-game stretch since he scored a total of 70 points in the final game of the 2014-15 season and first three games of the 2015-16 campaign. — MacMahon

This week: LAL, @SAS, @SAS

18. New Orleans Pelicans
2020-21 record: 4-5
Previous ranking: 13

To say it was a disappointing week for the Pelicans is an understatement. The Pelicans had three very winnable games — up six on Indiana with 21 seconds left in regulation, up four with 2:00 to play against the Thunder and up 18 versus the Hornets — but dropped all three. Stan Van Gundy’s team has to work on closing out games. And he is trying to still get some of his base defense in — something that’s been challenging with the time frame of the odd season. — Lopez

This week: @DAL, @lAC, @LAL, @SAC

19. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 record: 4-5
Previous ranking: 11

After a hot start, things have cooled off considerably for the Hawks, who have now lost four straight after starting the season 4-1. The Hawks’ free-agent acquisitions have struggled with injuries: Bogdan Bogdanovic left Saturday’s game with a knee injury; Danilo Gallinari is out with an ankle sprain; Rajon Rondo has played in just two games; and Kris Dunn has yet to suit up this season. Meanwhile, Trae Young has struggled in protecting the ball, with 19 turnovers in his past three games. — Lopez

This week: PHI, @PHX, @UTA, @POR

20. Toronto Raptors
2020-21 record: 2-7
Previous ranking: 18

Toronto’s bizarre start to the season continued: A nice win in Sacramento Friday was followed up with a clunker at Golden State on Sunday, where the Raptors came back from a big deficit to take a late lead, only to foul Damion Lee in the final seconds and lose by a point. Still, the Raptors have to be encouraged by the recent improved play of Pascal Siakam, who averaged 24 points, almost nine rebounds and over five assists while shooting over 50% from the field and hitting 40% of his 3s in four games last week. If Toronto wants to dig out of this hole, Siakam continuing to play like that is a good start. — Bontemps

This week: @POR, CHA, CHA

21. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 record: 5-5
Previous ranking: 27

One night after nearly making history against brother Lonzo, LaMelo Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to register a triple-double during Saturday’s win over the Hawks. Ball’s performance put a nice exclamation point on a 3-1 week for a Hornets group that was always confident the rookie guard could come in and make an early impact. — Friedell

This week: NYK, DAL, @TOR, @TOR

22. New York Knicks
2020-21 record: 5-5
Previous ranking: 26

After a hot start, the Knicks have begun to come back to Earth, with comfortable losses to the Thunder and Nuggets. Julius Randle, however, continues to be the hub of the offense. Randle’s more than seven assists per game are a dramatic improvement from his career average of 2.9, and if New York settles down to the bottom of the East and that improvement continues, Randle will be an intriguing trade target ahead of the March 25 deadline. — Bontemps

This week: @CHA, BKN, @CLE, @BOS

23. Cleveland Cavaliers
2020-21 record: 5-5
Previous ranking: 19

It was a tough 1-3 week for the Cavs in the final four games of their six-game road trip, which finished with a 10-point loss to a Bucks team missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. And Andre Drummond‘s 26-point, 24-rebound line against the Bucks might have gotten a little more shine had he not done this against the Grizzlies earlier in the week. — McMenamin

This week: MEM, UTA, NYK, @WAS

24. Oklahoma City Thunder
2020-21 record: 5-4
Previous ranking: 28

Wait, are the Thunder really doing this again? Last season was expected to be the beginning of a rebuild, but OKC shocked the West all season long. And after starting 1-3, the Thunder went on a 4-1 road trip with wins against the Magic, Pelicans, Knicks and Nets. The standout reason: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. On the trip, SGA averaged 20.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists, featuring a 31-6-7 line against the Nets on Sunday. But before Thunder fans start dreaming about another overachieving season, the upcoming schedule may be a reality check. — Young

This week: SAS, LAL, CHI, PHI

25. Sacramento Kings
2020-21 record: 4-6
Previous ranking: 21

Is it too early to play the game where we reorder the 2020 NBA draft? How high would Tyrese Haliburton go? The Iowa State point guard, selected No. 12 by Sacramento, has already cracked the Kings’ starting rotation. In his first action with Sacto’s first unit, Haliburton had 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting and 8 assists as Luke Walton went with a three-guard lineup with De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and the rook in a loss to Portland. — McMenamin

This week: IND, POR, LAC, NOP

26. Chicago Bulls
2020-21 record: 4-7
Previous ranking: 29

The Bulls have been competitive of late, although it hasn’t shown in the standings. On a West Coast trip, Chicago started by rebounding from a 20-point, first-half deficit to beat Portland, then fell to the Kings, Lakers and Clippers by a combined nine points. Zach LaVine has been hot. He posted 45 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists against the Clippers for his sixth career 40-5-5 game, breaking a tie with Derrick Rose for the fifth-most such games in Bulls history. — Woodyard

This week: BOS, @OKC, @DAL

27. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 record: 3-6
Previous ranking: 23

Rookie wing Desmond Bane has been a bright spot during the Grizzlies’ injury-ravaged rough start. Bane, the No. 30 overall pick in the draft, is averaging 8.9 points off the bench and showing potential as a 3-and-D role player. He is 19-of-39 from long range, ranking second among rookies in 3s made. — MacMahon

This week: @CLE, @MIN, @MIN, PHI

28. Minnesota Timberwolves
2020-21 record: 3-7
Previous ranking: 24

The Wolves were desperate for a win and got it Sunday night in their weekend series finale over the Spurs, breaking a torturous seven-game losing streak. Karl-Anthony Towns returned on Saturday, which gave the Wolves a massive boost, but they still lost a close overtime game to San Antonio. With Towns sitting, they bounced back behind 27 points from D’Angelo Russell. It’s too early to make a determination on the season for the Wolves, but they are most interested in positive progression. And that requires winning every now and then. — Young

This week: MEM, MEM

29. Washington Wizards
2020-21 record: 2-8
Previous ranking: 25

As if a 2-8 start wasn’t bad enough, the Wizards lost Thomas Bryant for the season to a torn ACL. Bryant was looking at a breakout 2020-21 campaign, with Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal finding him for open looks. Westbrook himself is banged up with quad and finger issues. This season feels a lot like last season: Beal is on a tear, but the young Wizards continue to play little defense. — Youngmisuk

This week: PHO, UTA, @DET, CLE

30. Detroit Pistons
2020-21 record: 2-8
Previous ranking: 30

The highlight of Detroit’s week was a 110-105 overtime victory against the Suns after trailing by 23 points in the second quarter, their largest comeback in 25 seasons. The Pistons went 1-3 this week, but Jerami Grant continues to be a bright spot, joining Blake Griffin as the only Pistons in the past 20 seasons with consecutive 30-point, 10-rebound games. — Woodyard

This week: MIL, WAS, @MIA

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