NBA Power Rankings: Lakers drama continues with Frank Vogel; Devin Booker’s Suns back on top; Mavs climb fast


1


Suns
The Suns took care of business in wins over the Pacers, Pistons and Spurs this week, with an average margin of 20 points per game. Reigning Western Conference Player of the Week Devin Booker was on another level, averaging neraly 38 points in the three games, including a season-high 48 in San Antonio. Deandre Ayton suffered an ankle injury early in the win over the Pistons, and Bismack Biyombo took advantage of the extra opportunity with 17 points and 14 rebounds against the Spurs. 2 34-9
2


Heat
There must be some unwritten rule that the Heat just aren’t allowed to have all of their best players available at any given point during the season. Bam Adebayo returned to the court and looked great, averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in two games, but Miami lost Tyler Herro to health and safety protocols while Kyle Lowry missed two games for personal reasons. Oh, and Jimmy Butler got ejected in the second quarter of Wednesday’s win over the Blazers. But still, the Heat keep winning. Their 3-1 week makes it six wins in their last seven games. — 29-16
3


Grizzlies
Well, they’re human. The Grizzlies finally lost a couple of games, first to the Mavericks and then the Bucks, while picking up wins over the Wolves and Bulls. The victory over Chicago came with Desmond Bane, Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones out due to health and safety protocols. Ja Morant averaged 23.3 points and 8.5 assists for the week, while Jaren jackson Jr. added 17.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game. 2 31-16
4


Warriors
What an eventful 2-2 week for the Warriors, who trailed by 39 at halftime in a loss to the Bucks, then led by 31 at halftime the very next night in a win over the Bulls. They followed that up with a loss to the Wolves without Steph Curry and a breezy win over the Pistons. They played all week without Draymond Green, who is expected to miss at least two weeks with a back issue, and rookie Jonathan Kuminga has earned the vacant spot at starting power forward after a productive week (17.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 38 percent 3-point shooting). Klay Thompson also had his best game of the season against Detroit, putting up 21 points on 6-for-13 shooting in 22 minutes. 1 32-12
5


Bulls
Injuries to Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball, among others, led to a tough 1-3 week for the Bulls, though they did pick up a big win over the Cavs on Wednesday behind 30 points and seven assists from DeMar DeRozan. Coby White and rookie Ayo Dosunmu have been excellent fill-ins for the injured starting backcourt, and Alex Caruso made his return to the lineup in the win over Cleveland, putting up nine points in 23 minutes. 1 28-15
6


Cavaliers
The Cavs beat the Spurs and Thunder to start the week, then picked up a signature win over the Nets before losing to the Bulls on the road. Darius Garland is making a serious All-Star push, averaging 25.3 points and 12.5 assists this week, while Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen and Jarrett Allen all chipped in with excellent two-way play. Those who chalked up Cleveland’s early success to a fluke were sorely mistaken. 3 27-19
7


Mavericks
Suddenly the Mavs cannot be stopped, winners of 10 of their last 11 games, including all four this week. The Luka Doncic we all know and love has finally arrived in earnest — well, almost. He averaged 27.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and eight asssits this week, but still hasn’t been able to find his 3-point shooting stroke, going 5 for 28 in four games. Kristaps Porzingis returned from a seven-game absence, averaging 16.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in three games to close out the week. 5 26-19
8


76ers
Joel Embiid announced his MVP candidacy with authority by scoring 50 points in 27 minutes against the Magic to cap off a 3-1 week for the 76ers. Embiid has scored 31 or more points in 13 of 15 games, and Philly is one of the hottest teams in the league over that stretch. Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris played second- and third-fiddle to Embiid this week, each averaging 17 points per game on efficient 3-point shooting. 2 26-18
9


Nets
Losing at home to the Thunder by 21 points wasn’t a great way to start the week, and things got worse when Kevin Durant injured his knee against the Pelicans, forcing him to miss at least a month. Kyrie Irving was brilliant in the two games he was allowed to play this week, averaging 28.5 points and eight assists on 54 percent shooting, while James Harden struggled shooting the ball in the two games without Durant. LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills are going to have to pick up the scoring slack with KD out. 3 28-16
10


Bucks
The Bucks won the difficult games this week, and lost the easier ones — at least on paper. They destroyed the Warriors and pulled away from the Grizzlies, while dropping games to the Raptors and Hawks. Jrue Holiday returned from a six-game absence in the win over Memphis, putting up nine points, five rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes off the bench. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 30 points, 9.8 rebounds and seven assists for the week, while Khris Middleton added 25 points and 5.8 assists per game on 43 percent 3-point shooting. Milwaukee is 17-3 this season when Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday all play. 2 28-19
11


Hornets
After a baffling home loss to the Magic to start the week, the Hornets picked up strong road victories over the Knicks and Celtics. Miles Bridges had a great three games, averaging 26.7 points and 7.3 rebounds on 36 percent 3-point shooting, while Terry Rozier added 23 points per game. Almost certainly more exciting for James Borrego is the fact that Charlotte allowed just 103.7 points per 100 possessions this week, a far cry from their season average of 112.3. 4 25-20
12


Jazz
Utah’s struggles continued this week, losing to the Lakers and Rockets after a blowout win over the Nuggets on Sunday. The high-powered offense was sluggish in the losses, the latter of which came without Donovan Mitchell. A monster in the middle, Rudy Gobert averaged 20 points, 14.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game this week, while Mike Conley added 15 points per game on 46 percent 3-point shooting. The Jazz have now lost six out of their last seven games. 1 29-16
13


Nuggets
Denver went 3-1 this week, including a dismantling of the Lakers and an exciting overtime win over the Clippers in which Nikola Jokic put up jaw-dropping totals of 49 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, the last of which came to Aaron Gordon for the game-winning 3-pointer. Gordon also played well this week, averaging 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 47 percent 3-point shooting. The Nuggets have won five of their last seven games. 2 23-20
14


Celtics
The Celtics beat the short-handed Bulls and the Pelicans this week, but struggled to score in losses to the 76ers and Hornets. The offensive woes were partly due to Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum’s shooting struggles, while Dennis Schroder did a solid job filling in for starter Marcus Smart — outside of a one-point dud in the loss to Philly. 3 23-23
15


Wizards
The Wizards lost to the Blazers and beat the 76ers this week, before dropping a close one to the Nets on Wednesday. Bradley Beal returned from protocols for the last two games, averaging 18 points and 7.5 assists on 40 percent 3-point shooting. Thomas Bryant has gotten back into the center rotation after returning from injury, and it hasn’t seemed to affect Montrezl Harrell, who averaged 16 points and six rebounds off the bench for the week. 1 23-22
16


Raptors
The Raptors picked up an impressive road win over the Bucks, but lost their other three games this week to the Pistons, Heat and Mavericks. Fred VanVleet came back down to earth a bit offensively, but still averaged 20.3 points and 8.3 assists — that’s how good he had been over the past couple of weeks. Pascal Siakam put up 22.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game, while Chris Boucher pitched in with 15.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. 3 21-21
17


Timberwolves
The Wolves went 2-2 this week with wins over the Knicks and short-handed Warriors, and losses to the Grizzlies and Hawks. Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards all averaged 20 points or more this week, and that’s with Edwards being ejected from Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks. The Wolves’ starting five, which includes the three stars, Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt, has an absurd net rating of plus-30.7 this season, by far the best in the league for units with over 200 minutes. 3 22-23
18


Knicks
The Knicks built a modest three-game winning streak with a victory over the Hawks to begin the week, but followed that up with losses to the Hornets and Wolves. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett each averaged over 20 points per game for the week, while Kemba Walker made his return to the linup in Tuesday’s loss to Minnesota, putting up 19 points and four assists on 4-for-8 3-point shooting. As the Knicks get healthy, it will be interesting to see how Tom Thibodeau’s rotations start to shake out. 2 22-23
19


Hawks
Atlanta saw its losing streak reach five games after dropping contests to the Heat and Knicks to start the week, but it bounced back for solid wins over the Bucks and Wolves. As has been the case for most of the season, the Hawks had no problem putting the ball in the basket, but defense was a major issue. De’Andre Hunter has looked good since being re-inserted into the starting lineup, averaging 17.5 points this week on 39 percent 3-point shooting, while second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu has been a revalation in the place of the injured Clint Capela, putting up 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and three blocks per game this week. 5 19-25
20


Lakers
Frank Vogel was reportedly on the verge of being fired following a blowout loss to the Nuggets to start the week, but an MLK Day victory over the Jazz seemed to temporarily stave that off. Even after a disappointing home loss to the struggling Pacers, Vogel’s job is reportedly safe … for now. The Lakers offense couldn’t get going this week, averaging 105.2 points per 100 possessions despite 27.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and six assists per game from LeBron James. The Lakers face a tough upcoming six-game road trip, and Anthony Davis can’t make his return to the court soon enough. The question is, will Vogel still be the head coach by the time Davis gets back? 1 22-23
21


Clippers
Paul George will miss at least another few weeks with his elbow injury, and the Clippers might not be able to last much longer without him. They went 1-3 this week, concluding with a thrilling overtime loss to the Nuggets on national TV. Nicolas Batum had a ridiculous 32-point second half in the win over the Pacers, then was placed into health and safety protocols before the Denver game. Such has been life for the Clippers this season. 3 22-24
22


Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum returned to the lineup this week and immediately delivered some scoring pop in a win over the Magic and a loss to the Heat. McCollum averaged 20 points and shot 46 percent from the 3-point line in his first game action since early December, while Anfernee Simons continued his eye-catching stint in the starting backcourt, putting up 23.7 points and 8.3 assists per game this week on 39 percent 3-point shooting. 1 18-26
23


Pelicans
New Orleans blew out the Clippers to start the week, before double-digit road losses to the Nets and Celtics. Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas continue to do the heavy offensive lifting with Zion Williamson out of the lineup, though Ingram went just 14 for 40 from the field in the two losses. Rookie Herb Jones’ defensive reputation preceded him, but he’s been a pleasant surprise on the other end of the floor of late, putting up 14.3 points per game this week on 5-for-8 3-point shooting. 1 16-28
24


Pacers
The Pacers had lost 10 of 11 games before a much-needed victory over the Lakers on Wednesday night. Caris LeVert took over with 22 fourth-quarter points to help Indiana pull away, while Malcolm Brogdon put up 19 points and six assists in only his second game since Dec. 21. With Myles Turner sidelined with a foot injury, Domantas Sabonis put up 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists over the last two games, including a triple-double against the Lakers. 1 16-29
25


Pistons
The Pistons picked up two wins this week, including a comeback victory over the Kings on Wendesday that ended with a 13-1 Detroit run despite Cade Cunningham only playing 21 minutes due to constant foul trouble. Kelly Olynyk played his first game in two months against Sacramento and didn’t miss a beat, putting up 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes. 1 11-33
26


Rockets
The Rockets are starting to string some wins together, picking up victories in three of their last four after a 2-1 week. They split with the Kings, then handed the Jazz a shocking loss in Utah on Wednesday, even though they were without star Donovan Mitchell. Six Rockets averaged double-figures in the three games, led by Christian Wood’s 20.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Kevin Porter Jr. put up 18 points and 7.7 assists per game, knocking down 41 percent of his 3-pointers — most of which come with a high degree of difficulty. 1 14-32
27


Spurs
The Spurs got more of their horses back, and it resulted in wins over the Clippers and Thunder, with losses to the stout Cavs and Suns. Derrick White averaged 14.7 points and 5.7 assists in three games, his first action since early January, to help out Dejounte Murray, who continued to stuff the stat sheet with 22.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game this week with only eight total turnovers in four games. 1 17-28
28


Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander narrowly missed a triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in a road win over the Nets without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to start the week, but things went downhill from there. OKC dropped the next three games to the Cavs, Mavericks and Spurs to reach the 30-loss mark on the season. Lu Dort has been the team’s second scorer behind SGA, averaging 19.3 points this week on 48 percent 3-point shooting to go along with his physical defense. 1 14-30
29


Magic
Orlando finally got in the win column with a victory over the Hornets to start the week, but started a new losing streak in ensuing games against the Mavs, Blazers and 76ers. Six Magic players averaged double-figures for the week, but the leading scorer, Moe Wagner, only put up 15.5 per game. Outside of a 3-point flurry from Mo Bamba in the first half of the Philadelphia game, it’s not hard to see why the Magic only generated 101.5 points per 100 possessions in four games this week. 1 8-38
30


Kings
When you lose consecutive home games to the Rockets and Pistons, you know things aren’t going well. The trade rumors are swirling around the Kings and their play of late suggests they might become sellers at the deadline if the price is right. Tyrese Haliburton missed both losses in protocols, while De’Aaron Fox put up 22.7 points, 6.7 assists and five rebounds per game this week. Terance Davis played well as a spot starter, averaging 26 points, six rebounds and four assists on 39 percent 3-point shooting in the two losses. 7 18-29

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