NBA Power Rankings Week 11: Miami Heat climb as L.A. teams stumble into 2020

Perkins: Butler should be in the MVP conversation (2:02)

Kendrick Perkins makes the case that Jimmy Butler should be in the MVP conversation for the way he sets the tone for the Miami Heat. (2:02)

Party in the city where the Heat is on!

Welcome to No. 2, Miami.

Jimmy Butler & Co. have the league's longest active win streak at five games, a run bookended by two tight victories over the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami's rise coincides with some shaky play from the Staples Center roommates, as the Los Angeles Lakers (losers in four of six) and the LA Clippers (losers in four of seven) have hit speed bumps on the road to 2020.

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Andre' Snellings, Royce Young and Bobby Marks, and The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears) 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 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Training camp | Free agency | Post-Finals

1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 29-5
Week 10 ranking: 1

The Bucks got blown out by the 76ers on Christmas Day but bounced back with two straight wins, even with both Giannis Antetokounmpo (back) and Eric Bledsoe (fibula) sidelined. Both are due to return soon, though, and the Bucks have latitude to let them fully recover with a light short-term schedule featuring eight straight games against teams with losing records and an overall win percentage under 37%. -- Snellings

This week: @CHI, MIN, SA

2. Miami Heat
Record: 24-8
Week 10 ranking: 4

In a wide-open Rookie of the Year race, Tyler Herro is making a strong case. And not just in the quality numbers -- 13.9 points on quality shooting percentages -- but more in the big moments and big shots he keeps producing. He's shooting almost 60% from 3 in clutch time and is 3-of-3 on go-ahead 3s in the final minute, the most makes in that situation in the league this season. He did it again against the 76ers on Saturday, draining a go-ahead 3 with 6.9 seconds left. Ben Simmons sent it to overtime, but Miami finished it there, going to 2-1 against Philly on the season. -- Young

This week: @WSH, TOR, @ORL, POR

3. LA Clippers
Record: 23-11
Week 10 ranking: 3

They won the game that mattered last week, or at least that's probably how their fan base feels. The Christmas Day win over the Lakers was played at an extremely high level and obviously the Clippers put a lot into it. They followed it up with a pretty lackluster performance a couple of days later against the Jazz, which drops them to 3-4 in their past seven. Against Utah they scored only 15 points in the fourth quarter, a continuation of a mildly concerning recent fourth-quarter trend. In those past seven games, the Clippers have a 100.6 offensive rating in the fourth quarter, down almost 17 points per 100 possessions from the rest of the game. -- Young

This week: @SAC, DET, MEM, NY

4. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 26-7
Week 10 ranking: 2

The Lakers stumbled a bit as their 2019 schedule was closing -- their final game before 2020 was Sunday night's win over the Mavs -- but what a difference a year and newcomer Anthony Davis makes. The Lakers were 21-16 when they entered 2019 and finished 37-45 overall. Davis and the Lakers will enter 2020 with a West-best 26-7 record and 18-4 mark within the conference. -- Spears

This week: PHX, NO, DET

5. Boston Celtics
Record: 22-8
Week 10 ranking: 5

If the All-Star voting concluded today, the Celtics would be represented by three players -- Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Though the pick of Brown might not be popular outside of New England, consider what he has done in the past five games before the team's loss at home Saturday to Toronto. During the Celtics' five-game winning streak, Brown averaged a team-high 26.4 points, 60.3% shooting from the field, 47.2% from 3 and 7.6 rebounds. -- Marks

This week: @CHA, ATL, @CHI

6. Denver Nuggets
Record: 23-9
Week 10 ranking: 8

Sunday's game against the Kings was an exciting one for Nuggets fans -- Michael Porter Jr. got his first career start, and he made the most of it. The Nuggets' stratospheric ceiling has somewhat become connected to Porter's development, and there has been a sometimes frustratingly patient approach taken by the organization. But it appears to be paying off, with Porter dropping 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting in 26 minutes against the Kings. It's one game, and the Nuggets won't be overreacting to it, but Porter's talent is undeniable and it's hard not to get excited about this being the start to something impactful. -- Young

This week: @HOU, @IND, @WSH

7. Toronto Raptors
Record: 22-11
Week 10 ranking: 6

Seven of the top eight players in the Raptors' rotation have missed at least five games this season, including current absences from Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell. Despite the injuries, the Raptors remain in contention in the East and continue to pull off signature wins like Saturday's blowout of the Celtics and last week's historic comeback over the Mavericks. Chris Boucher, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have each stepped up with big efforts to support central figures Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka during this stretch. -- Snellings

This week: CLE, @MIA, @BKN

8. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 21-11
Week 10 ranking: 9

Tim Hardaway Jr.'s hamstring strain could be a significant blow to the Mavs. He averaged 16.9 points, shooting 46.7% from the field and 43.8% from 3-point range, since joining the Mavs' starting lineup. His athleticism and quick-trigger jumper complement Luka Doncic well, as evidenced by Dallas' net rating of plus-16.9 points per 100 possessions when they're on the floor together. -- MacMahon

This week: @OKC, BKN, CHA

9. Houston Rockets
Record: 22-11
Week 10 ranking: 7

The Rockets worried about James Harden's heavy workload (37.7 minutes per game with a 37.6% usage rate) even before the sprained toe that caused him to sit out Sunday's loss to the Pelicans. The good news is that Eric Gordon is back after missing six weeks following knee surgery. "As we go forward, he can take a big burden off a lot of guys hopefully," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said of Gordon, who scored 20 points in 22 minutes in his return. -- MacMahon

This week: DEN, PHI

10. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 23-12
Week 10 ranking: 10

Head coach Brett Brown summed it up best after the Sixers' Christmas Day blowout win against Milwaukee. "I think this team is designed for the playoffs. I believe the road we have traveled so far has been a little bit erratic, at times. But I think the landing spot is exciting." Another bump in the road came Friday night, as the 76ers fell in Orlando for the second time this season. The loss to the Magic and the next night to Miami has sunk Philadelphia's road record to 7-10, in comparison to a 16-2 mark at home. -- Marks

This week: @IND, @HOU

11. Utah Jazz
Record: 20-12
Week 10 ranking: 12

Beating the Clippers on the road Saturday night gave the Jazz a statement-type win during their active 7-1 run. Mike Conley played only 19 minutes during that stretch because of his nagging hamstring strain, pushing Donovan Mitchell to point guard, where he has thrived. Mitchell has averaged 27.0 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 52.1% from the field over the past eight games. -- MacMahon

This week: DET, @CHI, @ORL

12. Indiana Pacers
Record: 21-12
Week 10 ranking: 11

The Pacers have lost three straight road games, including Saturday's "Holiday Bowl" against the Pelicans that made NBA history when all three Holiday brothers were on the court simultaneously. The Pacers have a good chance to reverse that losing trend to start the new decade -- five of their first eight games in 2020 come against teams with losing records. -- Snellings

This week: PHI, DEN, @ATL

13. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 17-15
Week 10 ranking: 14

That's six wins out of seven for OKC, capped with an extremely impressive road win in Toronto without Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder (the Raptors were missing Pascal Siakam, though). Chris Paul has a vintage look to him, orchestrating in crunch time, hitting big shots and leading a young, developing roster. Along with it, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is blossoming; he set a career high (32 points) a week ago and has matched it twice since. In his past six games, he is averaging 27.3 points on 53% shooting. -- Young

This week: DAL, @SA, @CLE

14. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 16-15
Week 10 ranking: 13

Spencer Dinwiddie might have said it best after Thursday's loss to New York: "Too much eggnog." Not only did the Nets score a season-low 82 points, but they did so making only eight two-point field goals. According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, it's a feat not done since Nov. 22, 1950, when the Minneapolis Lakers and Fort Wayne Pistons scored a combined 37 points on four made field goals each. -- Marks

This week: @MIN, @DAL, TOR

15. Orlando Magic
Record: 14-18
Week 10 ranking: 17

The Magic went 2-1 last week, including their second win of the season over the 76ers, who are the only team above .500 that Orlando has been able to beat this season (they are 0-15 against all others). Their other 12 wins have come against teams with an overall win percentage under 33%. -- Snellings

This week: ATL, @WSH, MIA, UTAH

16. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 13-18
Week 10 ranking: 18

The Spurs went 2-1 last week, recording their two highest-scoring games of the season in the wins and coming up a couple of points shy of triple digits in the loss. LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 27.3 points in the three games and is suddenly letting it fly from 3-point range. He was 3-of-5 from long distance in his 40-point performance Monday against Memphis, matching a career high for 3s made that he surpassed Saturday, when he had 25 points and was 5-of-6 on 3s against the Pistons. -- MacMahon

This week: GS, OKC, @MIL

17. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 14-19
Week 10 ranking: 15

A four-game winning streak gets replaced by a three-game losing streak last week, summing up much of the season for the Blazers. But it could turn again for them, with winnable games ahead this week against the Suns, Knicks and Wizards. The games lost to injury for Portland is the primary culprit for its consistency issues. Also, the Blazers aren't as good defensively this season (they were pretty average anyway last season) and they have taken a considerable step back offensively. If it's going to turn around, Damian Lillard might need to summon the playoff version of himself for the next, say, 49 games. -- Young

This week: PHX, @NY, @WSH, @MIA

18. Chicago Bulls
Record: 13-20
Week 10 ranking: 20

Lauri Markkanen has had a respectable December, averaging 17.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 3-pointers made in 31.3 minutes. The 7-footer fought through the lingering effects of an illness with 25 points and four 3s in a 116-81 win over Atlanta on Saturday. Markkanen's play this month is good news for the Bulls after he struggled in a new offensive system earlier this season. -- Spears

This week: MIL, UTAH, BOS

19. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 11-23
Week 10 ranking: 28

The Pelicans have the longest active winning streak in the West with four straight victories, all against teams that are currently in playoff position. It has helped that Derrick Favors, who has had injury issues and took a personal leave after the sudden death of his mother, looks like the quality big man New Orleans thought it was getting when it acquired him. He has averaged a double-double during the streak (10.5 points, 14.5 rebounds) and the Pelicans have given up only 100 points per 100 possessions with Favors on the floor. -- MacMahon

This week: @LAL, @SAC

20. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 13-21
Week 10 ranking: 22

De'Anthony Melton, a 21-year-old guard acquired in a summer trade with the Suns, might be another long-term fit for the Grizzlies. He has solidified himself as a rotation player in December, when the Grizzlies are 8-8, averaging 9.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 20.3 minutes. His plus-minus in the month (plus-98) is 78 points better than that of any of his Memphis teammates. -- MacMahon

This week: @SAC, @LAC, @PHX

21. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 13-22
Week 10 ranking: 19

The theme for the Hornets moving forward is all about consistency. With PJ Washington returning from a hand injury, head coach James Borrego can find continuity with a starting lineup that features Washington, Terry Rozier, Devonte' Graham, Miles Bridges and Bismack Biyombo. In the 12 games with the above starting unit, Charlotte is 6-6 with three of those losses by a combined 14 points. -- Marks

This week: BOS, @CLE, @DAL

22. Phoenix Suns
Record: 12-20
Week 10 ranking: 21

The Suns won their first game since Dec. 9 with a 112-110 victory at Sacramento that snapped an eight-game losing streak. Perhaps a key to the victory was first-year head coach Monty Williams' pregame meeting with Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio. Oubre says the message to the players was to hold everyone to a high standard, and they'd be benched if they are not living up to it. -- Spears

This week: @POR, @LAL, NY, MEM

23. Sacramento Kings
Record: 12-21
Week 10 ranking: 16

The Kings quietly have the longest losing streak in the Western Conference at seven games. Sacramento last won a game on Dec. 15 at Golden State and has not won a home game since Dec. 11. One key to fixing the Kings is a healthy De'Aaron Fox, who has been hampered by back and ankle injuries this season. -- Spears

This week: LAC, MEM, NO

24. Detroit Pistons
Record: 12-21
Week 10 ranking: 23

The Pistons have lost six of their past seven games, with a blowout win over the Wizards as the lone bright spot. Their defense has been the clear culprit in their struggles: During their past 15 games, the Pistons are 6-0 when holding opponents under 110 points but 0-9 when their opponents reach that threshold. Their schedule this week is brutal, with the middle four games of a six-game trip that feature stops against the Jazz, Clippers and Lakers. -- Snellings

This week: @UTAH, @LAC, @GS, @LAL

25. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 11-20
Week 10 ranking: 24

The Timberwolves have lost five of their past six games without Karl-Anthony Towns (knee), and 12 of their past 13 overall. Their one recent win came over the Kings in a game in which Sacramento lost both De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III early due to injury. Andrew Wiggins (flu-like symptoms) joined Towns on the bench for Saturday's loss to the Cavaliers, and both are considered day-to-day heading into their next two games against the Nets and Bucks. -- Snellings

This week: BKN, @MIL, GS, @CLE

26. New York Knicks
Record: 9-24
Week 10 ranking: 27

It is hard to gauge New York's 5-6 record since interim head coach Mike Miller took over -- the five wins have come against Golden State, Sacramento, Atlanta, Brooklyn and Washington. One thing is for certain, though: This Knicks squad is more competitive, despite a lethargic loss to Washington last Monday. In the 11 games, New York has a point differential of minus-2.8 compared to minus-10.8 when David Fizdale was in charge. -- Marks

This week: POR, @PHX, @LAC

27. Golden State Warriors
Record: 9-25
Week 10 ranking: 29

Perhaps the only saving grace during the injury-plagued Warriors' losing is that they could have a shot at the top pick in the 2020 NBA draft after a 5-24 start. But after winning four of the past five games, Golden State entered Sunday as one of six teams with 10 or fewer wins. The last time the Warriors had the top overall draft pick was 1995, when they selected Maryland forward Joe Smith over the likes of Kevin Garnett, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire. -- Spears

This week: @SA, @MIN, DET

28. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 10-22
Week 10 ranking: 26

The first domino of the Cavaliers' expiring contracts fell when reserve Jordan Clarkson was moved to Utah in exchange for former top-five pick Dante Exum. The trade signaled that Cleveland is open for business when it pertains to moving their veterans in their last season -- Tristan Thompson, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova and Brandon Knight. The trade also signified a fresh start for Exum. In the win at Minnesota, Exum played a season-high 16 minutes and scored eight points off the bench. -- Marks

This week: @TOR, CHA, OKC, MIN

29. Washington Wizards
Record: 9-22
Week 10 ranking: 25

In the riveting battle to see who the worst defensive team in the league will be this season, the Wizards have really taken it up (or down?) a notch. They are almost three full points per 100 possessions worse than the Hawks after flipping back and forth for much of the past month. At a 116.2 defensive rating, the Wizards are on track to be the worst defensive team since, well, last season, when the Cavs checked in at 116.8. -- Young

This week: MIA, ORL, POR, DEN

30. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 6-27
Week 10 ranking: 30

The Hawks have lost 10 straight games for the second time this season. Atlanta, however, is hoping that guard Trae Young, who is averaging 28.5 points, will return soon after missing Saturday's 116-81 loss at Chicago because of a sprained right ankle. The Hawks are the only team in the league with fewer than nine wins. -- Spears

This week: @ORL, @BOS, IND