NBA Power Rankings: Rockets, Warriors continue battle for No. 1

It's a debate that has been held most Mondays since the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets started separating themselves from the rest of the Power Rankings pack.

Best team or best season?

It's no doubt oddsmakers would favor the defending champion Warriors in a seven-game series, but this iteration of the Rockets has, arguably, had the better 2017-18 so far; a campaign filled with two double-digit win streaks, an ever-strengthening MVP case for James Harden and an offense that's on pace to shoot more 3-pointers than any team in history.

Let's just hope these two juggernauts can settle this debate on the court.

Every week throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Amin Elhassan and Ramona Shelburne, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) will rank the league's 30 teams from top to bottom, with research notes on each team provided by ESPN Stats & Information.

Prev.: Wk 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

1. Houston Rockets
2017-18 record: 46-13

The Rockets enter the week having won 12 straight games, the longest active win streak in the NBA. They've had two of the four 12-plus-game win streaks in the league this season -- having also won 14 consecutive games from Nov. 16 to Dec. 18. On Sunday, James Harden posted his ninth 40-point game this season, which is the most in the NBA. In fact, he has three more such games than any other player (Anthony Davis has six). -- Sarah Langs

2. Golden State Warriors
2017-18 record: 46-14

On Saturday, the Warriors posted their 23rd 30-point win under Steve Kerr, 10 more than any other team since the start of the 2014-15 season. Golden State held the Thunder to 80 points, tied for its fewest allowed in a game this season. The biggest improvement was interior defense as the Warriors allowed 28 points in the paint to Oklahoma City. Entering that game, the Warriors had allowed 47.4 paint points per game, ranking 28th in the NBA. -- Matt Williams

3. Toronto Raptors
2017-18 record: 41-17

The Raptors had their seven-game winning streak snapped Friday in an overtime thriller against the Bucks. Despite the loss, that streak helped push the Raptors atop the Eastern Conference. Toronto has never finished atop the conference since joining the NBA in 1995-96. -- C.J. Hangen

4. Boston Celtics
2017-18 record: 42-19

The Celtics had dropped three in a row heading into the All-Star break but have now posted consecutive wins, both on the road. Their .724 winning percentage on the road is third best in the NBA, behind only the Rockets and Warriors. -- Amanda Hajjar

5. Cleveland Cavaliers
2017-18 record: 35-24

Despite all of the Cavaliers' new weapons, LeBron is still doing much of the heavy lifting. In Sunday's loss to the Spurs, James put up 33 points and nine assists, while all other Cavaliers starters had just 14 points and one assist combined. It was the fewest points by James' fellow starters in any game of his career. -- Amanda Hajjar

6. San Antonio Spurs
2017-18 record: 36-25

The Spurs finished Sunday's win over the Cavs on a 39-20 run to snap a four-game losing streak. The Spurs improved to 14-13 against LeBron-led teams in his career, making them one of three teams -- joining the Rockets and Nuggets -- with a winning regular-season record against King James. -- Michael Schwartz

7. Portland Trail Blazers
2017-18 record: 34-26

Damian Lillard has scored 197 points over his past five games, the most by a Trail Blazers player over any five-game span in franchise history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. The previous high was 182 points over five games by Brandon Roy in December 2008. -- Matt Williams

8. Washington Wizards
2017-18 record: 35-25

Heading into Sunday, the Wizards had averaged 313.3 passes per game and a league-leading 4.9 "hockey assists" over their previous 11 games, according to Second Spectrum, all without the injured John Wall. Prior to this stretch, the Wizards averaged 281.7 passes per game, 27th in the NBA, and 2.8 hockey assists per game. -- Jose De Leon

9. Indiana Pacers
2017-18 record: 34-25

The Pacers are riding a four-game winning streak and have won eight of their past 10 games. Indy has been led by Victor Oladpio's 26.0 points per game during their streak, including a 35-point outburst against the Knicks. The Pacers are 34-19 when Oladipo plays this season -- they're 0-6 without him -- a win percentage that would slot them ahead of the Cavaliers and behind the Celtics into the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. -- C.J. Hangen

10. Milwaukee Bucks
2017-18 record: 33-26

Since firing Jason Kidd on Jan. 22, the Bucks are 10-4, which is third best winning percentage (.714) in the Eastern Conference in that span behind the Raptors (10-3, .769) and Pacers (9-3, .750). In that span, they're allowing 102.2 points per game to their opponents, third best in the East. Giannis Antetokounmpo is scoring 25.8 points per game in that span. -- Sarah Langs

11. Minnesota Timberwolves
2017-18 record: 37-26

Jimmy Butler underwent meniscus surgery Sunday, and the Timberwolves will definitely miss his presence, especially on the defensive end. With Butler on the court this season, Minnesota had allowed 105.3 points per 100 possessions. However, when Butler is off the court, the Timberwolves have allowed 114.6 points per 100 possessions. -- Matt Williams

12. Philadelphia 76ers
2017-18 record: 32-26

On Thursday against the Bulls, Ben Simmons finished with 32 points and 11 assists, joining Allen Iverson as the only 76ers rookies with a 30-and-10 game in team history, per Elias Sports Bureau research. -- Harrison Marder

13. Oklahoma City Thunder
2017-18 record: 34-27

Russell Westbrook and Paul George combined for just 20 points on 17 percent shooting in Saturday's blowout loss at Golden State. That's after they combined for 63 points per game on 47 percent shooting in their two victories over the Warriors earlier this season. -- Michael Schwartz

14. Denver Nuggets
2017-18 record: 33-27

Nikola Jokic saw his triple-double streak end at three games after Sunday's loss to the Rockets. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Jokic joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only player 6-foot-10 or taller to accomplish a streak of three or more consecutive triple-doubles. Chamberlain had six such streaks during his career, including a nine-game stretch during the 1967-68 season. -- James Jackson

15. Utah Jazz
2017-18 record: 31-29

The Jazz saw their 11-game win streak snapped, but have still won 12 of their past 13 games. Down the stretch, Utah has really relied on rookie Donovan Mitchell. According to NBA advanced stats, Mitchell has recorded a 41.9 percent clutch time usage percentage this season. The only players with a higher percentage (minimum 50 clutch minutes)? They are all 2018 All-Stars: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan. -- Matt Williams

16. New Orleans Pelicans
2017-18 record: 33-26

On Friday, Anthony Davis recorded 45 points, 17 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 steals in a win against the Heat. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Davis became the first player with a 40-point, 15-rebound, 5-steal and 5-block game since steals and blocks were first tracked in 1973-74. -- Matt Williams

17. LA Clippers
2017-18 record: 31-27

After scoring a game-high 35 points in Friday's win in Phoenix, Lou Williams became just the second player in NBA history with 10 30-point games off the bench in a single season since starts were first tracked in 1970-71, per Elias research. Williams joins Ricky Pierce in this illustrious club. -- Michael Schwartz

18. Charlotte Hornets
2017-18 record: 27-33

Don't look now, but the Hornets are making a playoff push. Charlotte has won four straight games, its longest win streak of the season, and took its largest lead of the season (32 points) in Sunday's win over the Pistons. The Hornets are now four games out of a playoff spot, but they sport a positive point differential unlike the two teams they trail in the race for eighth, Miami and Detroit. -- Michael Schwartz

19. Miami Heat
2017-18 record: 31-29

The Heat beat the Grizzlies by 26 on Saturday to win for just the second time in their past 10 games. This was Miami's largest margin of victory in a game this season, and their only two 20-point wins have come against Memphis. -- Michael Schwartz

20. Detroit Pistons
2017-18 record: 28-31

Since Blake Griffin made his team debut, the Pistons are 5-0 against teams on the second night of a back-to-back. They are 0-4 against teams that aren't playing on the second night of a back-to-back (not including their first game after the All-Star break against the Celtics). -- Jose De Leon

21. Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 record: 25-34

After dropping a home game to the Hornets on Jan. 5, the Lakers owned the second-worst record in the league. Since then, the Lakers have gone 14-7, tied for the sixth-best record in that span. -- Michael Schwartz

22. New York Knicks
2017-18 record: 24-37

In the midst of another losing season for the Knicks, perhaps New York has found something in former top-10 pick Trey Burke. Burke has now scored at least 25 points in consecutive games for the first time in his career. -- Michael Schwartz

23. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 record: 20-39

Bobby Portis exploded for a career-high 38 points on Thursday against the Sixers. That's the most points by a Bulls player off the bench since Ben Gordon in December 2007. -- Michael Schwartz

24. Brooklyn Nets
2017-18 record: 19-41

The Cavaliers own the Nets' 2018 first-round pick following the Isaiah Thomas-Kyrie Irving trade. On Tuesday, Brooklyn could play spoiler as it faces Cleveland. The Nets currently have the seventh-worst record in the NBA, but are only 1½ games ahead of the Suns. -- Matt Williams

25. Sacramento Kings
2017-18 record: 18-41

Rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic has been one of the few bright spots for the Kings of late. The MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge, Bogdanovic has scored at least 20 points twice in his past three games after hitting that mark just twice previously. -- Michael Schwartz

26. Orlando Magic
2017-18 record: 18-41

Here's how difficult it is to make up ground in the NBA's tank race. The Magic have lost five games in a row, but they have gotten just a half-game closer to the worst record in basketball. -- Michael Schwartz

27. Atlanta Hawks
2017-18 record: 18-42

The Hawks already have three more losses than they had all of last season and are tied with the Mavericks for the second-worst record in the NBA, ahead of only Phoenix. According to BPI, Atlanta has a 15.1 percent chance at the top pick in the 2018 NBA draft. The only team with a higher percentage is the Suns, whom the Hawks play on March 4. -- Matt Williams

28. Dallas Mavericks
2017-18 record: 18-42

The Mavericks are currently in the midst of their fifth losing streak of at least four games this season. That is the team's most such streaks since 1997-98, the season before the franchise acquired Dirk Nowitzki on draft night. -- Michael Schwartz

29. Memphis Grizzlies
2017-18 record: 18-40

In losing by 26 on Saturday in Miami, the Grizzlies have now lost 40 games, one more loss than they had all of last season. Memphis has lost at least nine games in a row for the second time this season. Before this season, it had not lost nine straight since January 2009. -- Michael Schwartz

30. Phoenix Suns
2017-18 record: 18-43

The Suns' 50th season has been stained by franchise lows, and with just games at New Orleans and Memphis remaining in February, Phoenix is approaching another one. If the Suns lose both of those games, February 2018 will mark their first month without a victory in franchise history (minimum five games played). -- Michael Schwartz