Power Rankings: Cavaliers' trio strong enough to mask depth issue

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It's pretty simple sometimes.

Beat the top-ranked team in the league -- in the Game of the Season so far -- and you quickly vault to No. 1 in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.

It took your faithful Committee (of One) mere seconds to compute that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be moving back into the top spot after their memorable comeback Sunday from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to topple the mighty Golden State Warriors.

The season's first showdown between the teams that have contested the past two NBA Finals somehow lived up to the hype, delivering a finish that pretty much clinches a happy 32nd birthday for LeBron James come Friday.

Something, meanwhile, to keep an eye on with the Warriors: They're suddenly just 1-3 this season against the rest of the top five.

‎Read on for the rest of our 1-to-30 ladder. Profuse thanks and warmest holiday wishes, as always, go to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau -- with research ace Micah Adams running the point -- for providing such deep background data to help the Committee as we arrange things.

Previous rankings: Week 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Training camp

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17 record: 23-6
Previous ranking: 2

J.R. Smith's long-term absence is an undeniable issue. Depth is a legit worry, as well, because the Cavs now have two roster spots filled by players who can't help them (Chris Andersen and Mo Williams) and face major luxury-tax implications if they try to waive and replace them. Concerns about the Cavs' No. 13 status leaguewide in defensive efficiency, however, seem like an overreaction, given how rugged they looked when they needed to be in their Christmas Day bonanza against the Warriors. You also have to ask: Is there really anything more important than the reality that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are meshing as well as they ever have?

2. Golden State Warriors
2016-17 record: 27-5
Previous ranking: 1

The Warriors insisted after their Christmas Day unraveling in Cleveland that the sting of failing to finish off the hosts won't last, but it's fair to wonder how quickly they'll be able to expunge the disappointment of losing a game they led for 41 minutes and trailed for all of just 42 seconds. Golden State had won its previous 166 regular-season games in which it had amassed a lead of 14 or more points in the fourth quarter, and had enjoyed 14 consecutive road victories against Eastern Conference opponents. So much for the initial plan here to write about how the Dubs had quietly risen to No. 2 in the league in defensive efficiency heading into Cleveland.

3. San Antonio Spurs
2016-17 record: 25-6
Previous ranking: 4

It's not the first time this question has been posed, but maybe it's the most appropriate time: Is this the best coaching job we've ever seen from Gregg Popovich? The combination of Tim Duncan's retirement, the slow starts to the season by Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge and the struggles of Aldridge and Pau Gasol to mesh together is a lot to manage. But perhaps what we saw from Aldridge against Chicago will get him going; LMA's 33 points established a club record on Christmas (co-shared previously by George Gervin and Sean Elliott with 32).

4. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 21-8
Previous ranking: 5

All the focus, when it comes to the Warriors, has naturally been on their Christmas Day reunion with the Cavs. But Wednesday night in Oakland holds some promise, as well, with the Raptors visiting Oracle Arena. Although Toronto didn't score one of the 10 featured slots on the Christmas schedule, it does still boast the league's most efficient offense, ahead of even Golden State, despite the fact that the Raptors are No. 21 leaguewide in pace and No. 29 in assisted baskets, compared to the top-ranked Dubs. Question for you in the interim: Does anyone out there think J.R. Smith's thumb surgery opens the door for the Raps to steal the top seed in the East?

5. Houston Rockets
2016-17 record: 22-9
Previous ranking: 3

Give the Rockets this much: They're up to 6-0 this season on zero day's rest after responding to last Tuesday's home collapse to San Antonio with a hearty bounce-back win in Phoenix. But there's no way to dance around the disappointment stemming from the defeat that brought a halt to the longest Houston winning streak since the epic 22-gamer fashioned by the Yao-McGrady Rockets in 2008. Houston had a 13-point lead with 4:30 remaining over the longtime lords of Texas and couldn't hold it, despite the fact that teams were 1,388-1 in those same circumstances over the past three seasons. Just a painful week all around for the Rockets when you factor in the injury loss of the unheralded Clint Capela.

6. Memphis Grizzlies
2016-17 record: 20-12
Previous ranking: 7

A close game finally went against the Grizzlies, but it took 44 points from Boston's Isaiah Thomas (more than any other Celtic since Paul Pierce's 50-point game in 2006) to finally sour an overtime for them. The consolation, of course, is that Marc Gasol looks better than ever, at both ends, as the anchor for the league's top-ranked defense, sending Memphis into Christmas as one of only seven 20-game winners in the league -- and the most unlikely of the seven, alongside the Rockets, given how much time Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons have missed.

7. Boston Celtics
2016-17 record: 18-13
Previous ranking: 10

The Celtics' league-best run of 230 consecutive games without surrendering a triple-double was just brought to a halt by Russell Westbrook, leaving ‎Memphis with the longest such active streak at 172 games. Most of the news here these days, though, is deceptively encouraging for Boston, which sports a record of 12-4 when it can dress its Isaiah Thomas/Avery Bradley/Jae Crowder/Al Horford/Amir Johnson starting lineup. The Celts are also an East-leading plus-6 when you subtract home losses from their total of road victories, suggesting that their third-in-the-East record is actually a little better than it looks.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder
2016-17 record: 19-12
Previous ranking: 8

Maybe you feel as though you've already gorged yourself on too much Russell Westbrook this holiday season. Perhaps your wish to Santa was more variety in the Thunder comment section of these rankings from the Committee. We're truly sorry. We'd like to oblige. But how do we break the habit when he goes to Boston and savages the Celtics for 45, 11 and 11? Or when he follows that up by hitting poor Minnesota with just the third 30-point, 15-assist game in Christmas Day history? Only Oscar Robertson (22) and Wilt Chamberlain (seven) have more career triple-doubles featuring 40-plus points than Angry Russ' six. Only Robertson and Tiny Archibald, meanwhile, had previously managed 30-and-15 games on Christmas.

9. Utah Jazz
2016-17 record: 18-13
Previous ranking: 6

Even though the Jazz are coming off back-to-back defeats at home, we still feel compelled to mention that Quin Snyder, at the very least, deserved an honorable mention in our recent Coach of the First Trimester dispatch. Considering he has had his first-choice starting five for all of 12 minutes this season, Snyder and the Jazz had every reason to savor this Christmas, even after those disappointing narrow defeats to Sacramento and Toronto. Three games this week against bottom-feeders (Lakers, Sixers and Suns) should serve as a nice sendoff before Utah's five-game trip to open its 2017 schedule.

10. LA Clippers
2016-17 record: 22-10
Previous ranking: 9

The Clippers have inflicted two of San Antonio's six losses this season. That's the extent of the good news to be passed along from Clipperland these days after Chris Paul, who started the season so well, joined Blake Griffin on the sideline thanks to a tweaked hamstring. In their first two games without the services of their two best players, Doc Rivers & Co. lost to Dallas (which was 2-13 on the road) and the Lakers (who had lost 11 straight games to their Staples Center co-tenants).

11. Charlotte Hornets
2016-17 record: 17-13
Previous ranking: 12

Something we didn't expect to see this Christmas: Charlotte is tied with Memphis for the 10th-best odds to win it all (100-to-1), according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. That's a long way from saying these Hornets are a legit title contender, of course, but top 10 is top 10. The Hornets, for the record, are also one of just six teams in the league (along with Memphis, Chicago, Cleveland, Utah and San Antonio) that have never surrendered a triple-double to Russell Westbrook. Something to keep in mind with the Hornets due to host the Thunder on Jan. 4.

12. Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 record: 14-14
Previous ranking: 11

The Bucks woke up on Christmas ranked tied for 10th in the league in offensive efficiency and No. 9 in defensive efficiency. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the league's rising darlings, while Jabari Parker -- averaging 22.3 points per game in the best month of his career -- is making a stealthy All-Star push. All that stuff you heard last week about "rivaling" Cleveland is ridiculously premature, but the Bucks have been a fun (and welcome) story in a conference that could desperately use an infusion of frivolity, variety, etc.

13. New York Knicks
2016-17 record: 16-14
Previous ranking: 16

Houston, Utah, Oklahoma City and Cleveland were the only visiting teams to have conquered Madison Square Garden this season before the Knicks, sporting a shiny home record of 11-4, surrendered 119 points on Christmas to fall to Boston. The loss dropped the Knicks to 3-10 against .500-or-better teams, which ranks as the second-worst record in those matchups among the East's current top eight -- better only than Milwaukee's 2-9 mark. It would thus seem wise to refrain from proclaiming New York to be a playoff lock in the jumbled East, even if you (like us) have Porzingis Fever.

14. Indiana Pacers
2016-17 record: 15-16
Previous ranking: 13

We're probably not talking enough about the progress Myles Turner is making in Indiana. One-third of the way into the season, Turner is on course to become just the fifth player aged 20 or younger to average at least 15 points and two blocks per game, joining the starry likes of Anthony Davis (2013-14), Kevin Garnett (1996-97), Chris Webber (1993-94) and Shaquille O'Neal (1992-93). It's understandably tough, mind you, for Pacer People to focus on anything else when Paul George, as he did the other day, comes out and says: "Our identity is inconsistency."

15. Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 record: 15-15
Previous ranking: 18

The Hawks did win a couple of road games last week, but it'd be premature to say they're fixed. The victories in Oklahoma City and Denver, sandwiching an unsightly home loss to Minnesota, came by a total of just three points and required (A) Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap combining for 61 points in OKC and (B) more of the Nuggets' familiar late-game imprecision to clinch Atlanta's escape. It should be pointed out, though, that Atlanta has quietly won four in a row on the road and has had a few injury disruptions (Dwight Howard, Kyle Korver and Tim Hardaway Jr.) to its lineup of late.

16. Washington Wizards
2016-17 record: 13-16
Previous ranking: 15

Bradley Beal had scored at least 20 points in eight consecutive games -- the longest such streak of his career -- until the Wizards ran into the Giannis Antetokounmpo buzz saw last Friday night at Milwaukee. Playing at a faster tempo has undeniably helped the Wiz; they're in the top half of the league in pace now, at No. 14, as part of a 10-7 response to their dreadful 3-9 start. Yet Washington just lost big man Ian Mahinmi for another six weeks thanks to ongoing knee trouble. Since signing a $64 million deal in the summer, Mahinmi has only managed to play in one game.

17. Sacramento Kings
2016-17 record: 13-17
Previous ranking: 25

Could there be a better holiday gift for the beleaguered Kings than glancing at the standings on Christmas morning and finding themselves in the eighth spot in the West -- right on course for a first-round playoff series with Vivek Ranadive's old friends from Golden State -- after two unexpectedly gritty road wins in Utah and Minnesota? Could those who enjoy following the Kings' many dramas ask for much more than Wednesday's rematch that sends Sacramento to Portland so soon after DeMarcus Cousins rumbled for 55 points against the Trail Blazers? You might want to pay particular attention to the Boogie vs. Meyers Leonard matchup.

18. Chicago Bulls
2016-17 record: 14-16
Previous ranking: 14

At the close of November, Chicago sported the league's fourth-best average scoring margin, behind only the Warriors, Clippers and Cavs. But the Bulls' December has only been slightly more enjoyable than the Lakers' December -- and you'll fully realize how faint that praise really is when you get down to the details in the Lakers' comment. Entering its Christmas Day home date with San Antonio, Chicago's minus-9.6 PPG scoring drop from last month to this month was the league's second-most, behind only Atlanta's minus-11.1 and narrowly ahead of the Lakers' minus-8.5.

19. Denver Nuggets
2016-17 record: 12-18
Previous ranking: 19

The Nuggets bookended their last week before the holidays with a stirring second-half comeback to take down the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks -- and then an utter meltdown from 108-100 up on the visiting Hawks ‎with less than two minutes to play in an eventual 109-108 defeat. Denver will close out the calendar year with winnable home dates against Minnesota and Philadelphia; it still just doesn't look right when you see in the standings that the Nuggets have a losing record (6-8) in the Pepsi Center and its infamous altitude.

20. Detroit Pistons
2016-17 record: 14-18
Previous ranking: 17

The alarm bells sounded loudly in Motown early last week, when the Pistons responded to a players-only meeting by surrendering 69 points in the first half to the struggling Bulls and wound up getting throttled by 31 -- when Chicago was coming off of its own 26-point smoking by Milwaukee. Volume on the Pistons' struggles with ball movement and cohesion since the return of Reggie Jackson continues to rise, but Stan Van Gundy is openly scoffing at the notion that Detroit might start to shop Jackson in advance of the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Says SVG: "You can't be charting your organization's course based on 10 [bad] games when you went through 82 games and a playoff series."

21. Orlando Magic
2016-17 record: 14-18
Previous ranking: 21

Most rival executives expect the Magic to rank among the league's most active teams between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline; Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja and Elfrid Payton have all been rumored to be in play. Orlando, though, is quietly 11-8 against sub-.500 teams, which actually ranks as the East's best record among the seven clubs in the conference currently outside the top eight. The Magic, in other words, are holding their own against teams of the same standard in their bid to sneak into the postseason.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves
2016-17 record: 9-21
Previous ranking: 23

The fact that the Wolves were one of 10 teams scheduled to play on Christmas Day -- for the first time in franchise history -- tells you everything you need to know about the sort of expectations outsiders had for this team coming into the season. Going on to lose the game is hardly heinous, knowing that a road date in Oklahoma City is no gimme, but Friday's home loss to Sacramento still stings, given that the Wolves wasted Zach LaVine's first 40-point game. If only it helped in the standings when we hear that the Wolves are the first team in NBA history to feature three players under the age of 22 (LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins) to each post a 40-point game in one season.

23. Dallas Mavericks
2016-17 record: 9-21
Previous ranking: 24

After an absence of 14 games, Dirk Nowitzki is back at last for the Mavericks, who are also reveling in some strong recent contributions from Deron Williams and the first game-winning bucket of Harrison Barnes' career. Dallas is by no means whole, with Andrew Bogut still sidelined and J.J. Barea not quite back yet, but some within the Big D sports populace -- when they're not wrapped up in what's happening with the Cowboys -- are starting to worry that the Mavs are poised to start winning more regularly and thus endanger local dreams of a high lottery pick.

24. Miami Heat
2016-17 record: 10-21
Previous ranking: 22

A bright spot amid the ongoing debate about Hassan Whiteside's true effectiveness and the growing curiosity surrounding the Heat's plans with Goran Dragic between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline is the progress of Tyler Johnson. Miami's $50 Million Man uncorked 32 points in a double-overtime loss to Orlando last week, accounting for the highest total for a Heat reserve in franchise history. Johnson's 13.4 points per game is the second-highest scoring average among players with no starts this season, behind only the Lakers' Lou Williams (19.7 PPG) and ahead of OKC's Enes Kanter (13.1 PPG).

25. Portland Trail Blazers
2016-17 record: 13-19
Previous ranking: 20

We always say that paying too much attention to the L10 category in the standings feels somewhat remedial in this era of advanced stats, but the Trail Blazers' ongoing 1-9 funk is like the car crash you can't look away from. Washington was an early pacesetter in the league's Most Disappointing Team derby before the Wiz began to right themselves -- while Minnesota, Atlanta and Detroit are all still on that list -- but the Blazers have to top it as 2016 dribbles to a close. There's a risk for further disappointment as well Monday night, with Damian Lillard's ankle woes threatening to derail the scheduled showdown between the league's two highest-scoring backcourts: Lillard and C.J. McCollum versus Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

26. New Orleans Pelicans
2016-17 record: 11-21
Previous ranking: 27

Anthony Davis leads the league with nine 30-point, 15-rebound games already this season. The rest of the league has combined for just 10, and no other player has more than DeMarcus Cousins' three. Now for the rough stuff: Two games into what Pels coach Alvin Gentry dubbed a season-defining homestand, New Orleans is 1-1 with home dates remaining against the Mavericks, Clippers and Knicks. All three would appear to be classified as winnable, given the Clips' health issues; but the Mavericks, by contrast, are as healthy as they've been all season. And the aforementioned Brow, rather ominously, said before the homestand even started that "everybody in here knows we need to win all five games."

27. Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 record: 7-22
Previous ranking: 26

At Christmas 2014, Philly had exactly one win. At Christmas 2015, Philly had all of two wins. The Sixers' 7-22 mark by this Christmas, then, must sound pleasant by comparison. Philly was undoubtedly hoping to have found a trade taker for Nerlens Noel by now -- wouldn't that have been something if the Sixers could have made another deal on Christmas Eve to follow up their Ish Smith acquisition on Dec. 24, 2015? -- but it appears we'll have to stretch the Nerlens Watch into 2017, along with the breathless wait to see Ben Simmons make his NBA debut alongside the inimitable Joel Embiid.

28. Phoenix Suns
2016-17 record: 9-21
Previous ranking: 29

The aim here is not to be overly critical of Devin Booker, who won't turn 21 until next October. But Booker's PER continues to be a statistic of interest for the Committee, because the 20-year-old is still hovering below the league average at 13.23. Despite the obvious pressure in these tough circumstances that have been thrust onto Booker's shoulders, you'd like to see him in the 16 or 17 range, at worst. As our own Zach Lowe noted the other day in his weekly "10 Things" dispatch, meanwhile, Suns vets Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa are all delivering essentially what was expected.

29. Los Angeles Lakers
2016-17 record: 12-22
Previous ranking: 28

Luke Walton was legit Western Conference Coach of the Month material in November, but his December has been utterly forgettable. The Lakers were 1-12 this month and threatened to register the worst month in franchise history (worse than a 1-11 mark in December 2016), before manufacturing a Christmas Day victory over the Clippers. A solitary triumph in Philadelphia was all they had to show for the month before Sunday's much-needed respite, but last week will be remembered more for the 19-point lead they blew in Miami and the loss of popular reserve Larry Nance Jr. (knee) to a bone bruise for four weeks.

30. Brooklyn Nets
2016-17 record: 7-22
Previous ranking: 30

Did you come here for a full-on autopsy on how the Nets turned a 16-point halftime lead on mighty Golden State on Thursday night into a 16-point defeat? Of course not. You surely came here to read about how Brook Lopez has joined forces with DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol to make this the first season, already, in which three different NBA centers have rung up at least 40 3-pointers to go with at least 40 blocked shots. ‎(We should note, for posterity's sake, that the Nets are the first team to lose at home by 15 or more points after leading by 15-plus at halftime in -- gulp -- 30 years. It hasn't happened since the Suns endured a similarly painful turnaround against the visiting Clips on Dec. 30, 1987.)