NBA Power Rankings Week 12: Lakers, Thunder, Jazz rise as 76ers continue their fall

Don't look now, but the Oklahoma City Thunder have won 14 of 18 and have entered the new decade as one of the hottest teams in the league. The Utah Jazz are on a roll, too, winners in nine of their past 10 games. And the Los Angeles Lakers? Well, they're looking like themselves again after stumbling into 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 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Training camp | Free agency | Post-Finals

1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 32-5
Week 11 ranking: 1

The Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe back from injury last week and just kept winning, pushing their most recent win streak to five games. The Bucks have been ultra-consistent this season, notching a 23-0 record against teams under .500. They face teams with losing records in their next five games, and in nine of their next 10. -- Snellings

This week: @SA, @GS, @SAC, @POR

2. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 29-7
Week 11 ranking: 4

L.A. blocked 20 shots in a win over Detroit on Sunday. The Lakers were one block shy of their franchise record set on April 9, 1982, against Denver (blocks became an official stat in 1973-74) and are the first team with 20 blocks in a game since Nov. 7, 2001, when Toronto had 20 against Golden State. -- Spears

This week: NY, @DAL, @OKC

3. Boston Celtics
Record: 25-8
Week 11 ranking: 5

The three-point win at home to Atlanta might have been a little too close, but the Celtics are winning games they should. The 3-0 week (two without Kemba Walker) now has Boston winners of eight out of nine games, and 6-1 against teams below .500 during that stretch. With a week of games that includes matchups against sub-.500 teams Washington, San Antonio and New Orleans (they also play at Philadelphia), the Celtics can gain ground on Milwaukee and separate from teams like Miami, Toronto, Philadelphia and Indiana in the East. -- Marks

This week: @WSH, SA, @PHI, NO

4. LA Clippers
Record: 26-12
Week 11 ranking: 3

When you're a really good team that's contending for a championship and you have a bad, embarrassing loss, you say things like "We're not a great team. ... That's what we need to realize and wake up," which is what Montrezl Harrell said after the Clippers lost at home to the Grizzlies by 26 points on Saturday. Their followup wasn't all that inspiring, either, as they gave up 45 points in the first quarter to the Knicks. They came back to win 135-132, but the Clippers are clearly coasting a bit -- which is what the really good teams get to do from time to time. -- Young

This week: GS, @DEN

5. Miami Heat
Record: 26-10
Week 11 ranking: 2

Here's what's so impressive about the Heat: Their starting lineup Sunday against Portland was Meyers Leonard, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Derrick Jones Jr. and Kendrick Nunn. Didn't matter. They played to their identity, ran their system and still scored points. They've had a few ugly losses lately -- and an ugly win in which they scored only 84 points -- but their depth and systematic structure is spectacular. -- Young

This week: @IND, @BKN, @NY

6. Houston Rockets
Record: 24-11
Week 11 ranking: 9

As noted by ESPN's Kirk Goldsberry, Russell Westbrook has been the league's least efficient high-volume jump shooter this season with an effective field goal percentage of 36.4. The good news: Westbrook's shot selection has improved recently, as a significantly higher percentage of his field goal attempts have been inside the restricted area over the past month. He's averaging 27.8 points per game with a 54 true shooting percentage in that span, and the Rockets have won 10 of the past 12 games in which Westbrook played. He averaged 21.7 points with a 47.7 true shooting percentage before that. -- MacMahon

This week: @ATL, @OKC, MIN

7. Toronto Raptors
Record: 24-12
Week 11 ranking: 7

The Raptors continue to battle, turning in two blowout victories and a close loss to the Heat this week despite the continued injury absence of three of their top six rotation players. Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell are all still "a ways away" from returning, according to Raptors coach Nick Nurse, but the Raptors have a good short-term schedule with six of their next seven games against teams with losing records. -- Snellings

This week: POR, @CHA, SA

8. Denver Nuggets
Record: 24-11
Week 11 ranking: 6

After losing to the Wizards, Jamal Murray put it bluntly: "I didn't think we respected our opponent." The always-candid Mike Malone, who is excellent at motivating his team through postgame comments, was harsher: "Houston just humbled us. So two games later we need to be humbled again?" Denver has won 10 of its past 13, but it did lose by 26 to the Rockets and then dropped a dud to the Wizards. But it wasn't all bad last week. Michael Porter Jr. had a career night, scoring 25 on 11-of-12 shooting against the Pacers. -- Young

This week: @ATL, @DAL, CLE, LAC

9. Utah Jazz
Record: 23-12
Week 11 ranking: 11

The Jazz are rolling through a soft stretch of schedule, winning 10 of the past 11 games with only one victory in that span over a team that is above .500. Utah's next seven opponents all have losing records, too. The Jazz starting lineup, minus Mike Conley as he continues to nurse his nagging hamstring strain, has outscored opponents by 126 points over those 11 games. -- MacMahon

This week: @NO, NY, CHA, @WSH

10. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 22-13
Week 11 ranking: 8

Dallas' historically efficient offense has sputtered in clutch situations, a factor in two losses during their 1-3 slide. The Mavs' best-ever offensive rating of 115.3 points per 100 possessions plummets to a No. 28-ranked 92.3 in the clutch, per NBA.com/stats. Luka Doncic in those situations: 36.4% from the floor, 21.7% on 3s and as many turnovers (10) as assists. "He's been playing too many long stretches of minutes, and it's been really compromising him late in games," said coach Rick Carlisle, who tweaked the rotation to rest Doncic earlier in the first and third quarters. -- MacMahon

This week: CHI, DEN, LAL, PHI

11. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 20-15
Week 11 ranking: 13

The best record in the NBA since Dec. 1? The Bucks. The second best? The Thunder, at 13-4. Probably the biggest reason for the turnaround has been Oklahoma City's domination in the clutch. The Thunder went 8-1 in two-possession games in that span, they've won the most games decided in clutch time this season (16), and they have the best offense in the league in the clutch (125.4 offensive rating). The Thunder's three-point-guard lineup is a nightmare, and within it, Chris Paul has been an absolute crunch-time master, leading the league in clutch points and baskets. -- Young

This week: @PHI, @BKN, HOU, LAL

12. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 23-14
Week 11 ranking: 10

Maybe the 76ers can flip the switch and resemble a championship team when the playoffs begin -- the Christmas Day blowout win against Milwaukee should be enough evidence. But penciled in right now as the No. 6 seed, Philadelphia would start on the road if the playoffs started today, something they have fared poorly at with their 7-12 record away from Philly, including only one road win (Boston on Dec. 12) against a team over .500. -- Marks

This week: OKC, BOS, @DAL

13. Indiana Pacers
Record: 22-14
Week 11 ranking: 12

The Pacers have struggled of late, losing five of their past seven games with a scoring margin of minus-5.9 during that stretch. Their difficulties begin on defense, as they've allowed their opponents to average 118 points per game in the five losses and only 106 points per game in their two wins. The Pacers will look to right their defensive ship this week with two of three games against teams in the bottom six in the NBA in scoring, sandwiched around a tough home matchup against the Heat. -- Snellings

This week: @CHA, MIA, @CHI

14. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 16-18
Week 11 ranking: 14

The state of the Nets resembles more a team taking on water and less a franchise that won the offseason headlines. Brooklyn has now lost five games in a row and is facing the toughest part of its schedule -- eight of its next nine games against teams currently in playoff position. The Nets did get some good news when guard Caris LeVert returned from a seven-week absence on Saturday in a loss to Toronto. The bad news? There is no return in sight for the other half of the starting backcourt, injured All-Star Kyrie Irving. -- Marks

This week: @ORL, OKC, MIA, ATL

15. Orlando Magic
Record: 16-20
Week 11 ranking: 15

The Magic took a blow this week when promising young forward Jonathan Isaac went down for at least the next two months with a severe left knee sprain and bone contusion. Isaac was in the midst of a breakout campaign as the best defensive player on the team, and was arguably Orlando's most impactful player overall as he leads the Magic in real plus-minus on the season. -- Snellings

This week: BKN, WSH, @PHX

16. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 14-20
Week 11 ranking: 16

Has LaMarcus Aldridge suddenly become a stretch 5? Aldridge is 18-of-27 from 3-point range over the past six games, hitting more 3s during that span than he did all of last season. If the 34-year-old Aldridge continues lighting it up from long distance, it could boost his value in the trade market if the Spurs decide to go the rebuilding route. But San Antonio, which has an NBA-record postseason streak of 22 years, is just percentage points out of eighth place in the West standings at 14-20. -- MacMahon

This week: MIL, @BOS, @MEM, @TOR

17. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 15-22
Week 11 ranking: 20

The Grizzlies are 9-6 since Rookie of the Year front-runner Ja Morant came back from a back contusion. His 20-year-old co-star, Jaren Jackson Jr., is blossoming as a modern-day scoring big man. Jackson is averaging 20.6 points per game during that stretch, shooting 51.9% from the floor and 43.0% from 3-point range, attempting more 3s (113) than 2s (99) over those 15 games -- MacMahon

This week: MIN, SA, GS

18. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 15-22
Week 11 ranking: 17

At some point, something has to give for the Blazers. They've lost six of their past seven games and are clearly a significant notch below playoff-caliber teams. In this latest seven-game slump, they're allowing 118.8 points per 100 possessions, the second-worst mark in the league in that span. There was always a worry about the trade-off the Blazers were willing to rationalize when they signed Carmelo Anthony. But it appears the defensive chickens are coming home to roost right now. Just asking Damian Lillard to be a superhero isn't working, either: He has scored 30-plus in five of those seven games. -- Young

This week: @TOR, @MIN, MIL

19. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 12-24
Week 11 ranking: 19

Lonzo Ball is in the best groove of his career, stringing together three straight 20-point games for the first time as a pro. Ball is lighting it up with his reworked jumper, shooting 41.9% on 3s while launching 10.3 attempts per game from long range in that span, during which he has also averaged 8.3 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals. -- MacMahon

This week: UTAH, CHI, @NY, @BOS

20. Chicago Bulls
Record: 13-23
Week 11 ranking: 18

Chandler Hutchison has missed 17 straight games with a right shoulder injury and is expected to play again soon. The second-year forward, who opened the season as a reserve behind Otto Porter Jr., has been out since Nov. 27. Hutchison played in 39 minutes for the G-League Windy City Bulls on Friday, but he was not activated for the Bulls' loss to the Celtics on Saturday. -- Spears

This week: @DAL, @NO, IND, @DET

21. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 15-23
Week 11 ranking: 21

The Terry Rozier signing in July was depicted as an overreaction to the Hornets losing All-Star Kemba Walker to the Celtics. After all, how could Charlotte commit $57 million to a career backup in Rozier? While there have been times Rozier has struggled (see the 1-for-12 performance against Indiana), the wins over Cleveland and Dallas last week showed why the Hornets committed starter-worthy money to him. In the two games, Rozier averaged 29.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists while shooting 56.8% from the field and 55% from deep. -- Marks

This week: IND, TOR, @UTAH, @PHX

22. Phoenix Suns
Record: 14-22
Week 11 ranking: 22

Devin Booker set a new Suns record by scoring at least 30 points or more in his sixth consecutive game after scoring 40 in a loss against Memphis on Sunday. Booker surpassed a record of five straight games with 30 or more points previously held by Charles Barkley and Charlie Scott. Booker remains perhaps the lone bright spot for Phoenix, which has dropped seven of its past 10 contests. -- Spears

This week: SAC, ORL, CHA

23. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 14-21
Week 11 ranking: 25

The Timberwolves have had a bit of a bounce-back week, winning three of their four games and competing hard in a two-point road loss to the Bucks, all while Karl-Anthony Towns (knee), Andrew Wiggins (illness) and Jeff Teague (knee) battled injuries. The team has rallied behind veterans Shabazz Napier, Gorgui Dieng and Robert Covington, with young wings Jarrett Culver, Keita Bates-Diop, Kelan Martin and Josh Okogie taking turns stepping up as well. -- Snellings

This week: @MEM, POR, @HOU

24. Detroit Pistons
Record: 13-24
Week 11 ranking: 24

The Pistons snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over the Warriors but have still lost nine of their past 11 to fall several games off the pace for the eighth spot in the East. They also appear to be a team in transition, with All-Star center and NBA rebounding leader Andre Drummond heavily rumored to be on the trading block. If Drummond were to be moved, it would signal the Pistons' hitting the reset button on the entire direction of the franchise. -- Snellings

This week: @CLE, CLE, CHI

25. Sacramento Kings
Record: 13-23
Week 11 ranking: 23

Guard De'Aaron Fox took the blame for the Kings' 117-115 loss to the Pelicans on Saturday after missing 6 of 11 free throws and missing 9 of 14 field goals. Fox made all eight of his free throws during a win over the Grizzlies on Thursday. The blame should be shared beyond Fox, though, as Sacramento has lost nine of its past 10 games. -- Spears

This week: GS, @PHX, MIL

26. Washington Wizards
Record: 11-24
Week 11 ranking: 29

It's the random games that keep a flicker of optimism around the Wizards, such as their surprise win over the Nuggets on Saturday. And that was with Rui Hachimura, Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant all out. Ish Smith dropped 32 points and Troy Brown Jr. had 25 as the Washington bench outscored its own starters 92-36. -- Young

This week: BOS, @ORL, ATL, UTAH

27. New York Knicks
Record: 10-26
Week 11 ranking: 26

Was the 38-point, 13-of-19 from the field (including 6-of-7 from 3) performance from Marcus Morris Sr. an audition for the LA Clippers and contending teams? The career high in points comes one month before the trade deadline, and Morris has become a player many teams have circled as a priority. Morris is on an expiring $15 million contract, and New York will have the choice to either hold onto him for the remainder of the season, and perhaps bring him back in 2020-21, or look to trade him for draft assets. -- Marks

This week: @LAL, @UTAH, NO, MIA

28. Golden State Warriors
Record: 9-28
Week 11 ranking: 27

The Warriors will soon have to decide the fate of a pair of two-way players in Damion Lee and rookie Ky Bowman, as they are both closing in on their limit of 45 days. The Warriors have the most points in the NBA this season scored by two-way players with 542 entering Sunday, while Washington was a distant second at 198. -- Spears

This week: @SAC, MIL, @LAC, @MEM

29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 10-26
Week 11 ranking: 28

This is not what coach John Beilein envisioned when he left the University of Michigan to take over a rebuilding Cleveland team. Instead of preparing for Wisconsin or Michigan State, the rookie coach is dealing with a disgruntled former All-Star in Kevin Love, veterans on expiring contracts looking for that next paycheck and, most importantly, keeping morale high inside a locker room that features six players under the age of 25. After winning four out of five games to end December, the Cavaliers are in the midst of another losing streak, now at four games. -- Marks

This week: DET, @DET, @DEN

30. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 8-28
Week 11 ranking: 30

Guard Trae Young leads the Eastern Conference in 40-point games this season with five, second in the NBA only to Houston's James Harden (14). Young, who led all Eastern Conference guards in the first All-Star fan balloting results, has also scored 30 or more points on 18 occasions this season. -- Spears

This week: DEN, HOU, @WSH, @BKN