SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Week 19

SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Week 19
Tue 27th April 2021

We have analysed last week’s action and adjusted our NBA Power Rankings accordingly! There are some big risers and massive falls, but where do we have your team?

Kevin Durant returned for the Nets and it helped them cap off a 3-1 week with a win over the Suns. Philadelphia are in free-fall after an 0-4 week while the Knicks and Wizards keep on streaking, winning nine and eight games in a row respectively.

Here’s where all 30 NBA teams stand heading into Week 20 of the 2020-21 NBA season:

1. Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Championship Odds: +600
Current Record: 43-19
Previous Ranking: 1

The Clippers remain on top of the rankings thanks to another perfect week. LA, despite not having Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley or Serge Ibaka for all three games managed to beat Portland, Memphis and Houston. Paul George has been playing like an MVP candidate since the All Star break, helping the Clippers to a league best 19-5 record over that stretch, including winning 17 of their last 20.

This week is the big test though. Starting with a road game against the inconsistent Pelicans could result in anything, especially after they lost to New Orleans by 20 last time they met. They then play in Phoenix, the team one loss ahead of them in the standings, and against Denver, the team two losses behind them in the standings. How the Clippers fare in these three games will determine where they end up when the regular season ends. 

2. Brooklyn Nets

NBA Championship Odds: +220
Current Record: 41-20
Previous Ranking: 4

Brooklyn did what they needed to do, win two of the three games that Kevin Durant missed last week before welcoming him back in emphatic fashion. Splitting road games with the Pelicans and Raptors with just Kyrie Irving to lead the team is almost irrelevant when it is followed with him leading them to a win over Boston. Durant then returned on Sunday, against the best road team in the league, and fit back in effortlessly. 

James Harden’s health is obviously still a massive worry. The fact that Durant has featured in just 25 games this season and hasn’t been able to string together more than six in a row could be as well. But this team is incredible on offense and it can take them right to the end. The issue is just one of the last 24 NBA Champions have had a defense rank worse than 11th and Brooklyn’s is 25th…

3. Phoenix Suns

NBA Championship Odds: +2400
Current Record: 42-18
Previous Ranking: 2

An interesting and inconsistent week for Phoenix. After wins in Milwaukee and Philadelphia, many were ready to declare the Suns as a top contender for the crown but it all went downhill from there. Losing in Boston and Brooklyn by a combined 22 points showed that this team still has a way to go, especially when their defense has ranked just 21st over the last three weeks.

Having to face the red hot Knicks just one night after their loss to Brooklyn could be a disastrous end to the road trip for Phoenix, but it is also an opportunity to get straight back out there and right their wrongs. It doesn’t get any easier though, hosting the Clippers and Jazz in games that will either see them climb to the top of the conference or slip to third and be hanging on for dear life. 

4. Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Championship Odds: +1200
Current Record: 39-21
Previous Ranking: 3

The clear top seed in the East is now no longer. After seemingly locking up the top slot in the conference after beating Brooklyn 10 days ago, the Sixers suffered a meltdown. Ben Simmons missed all four games, Tobias Harris missed two, Seth Curry missed one, Joel Embiid missed one and Philadelphia lost all four. While their opponents, Golden State, Phoenix and Milwaukee twice, are all formidable, it is hard to see how the week could have gone worse for Philly.

A two game home series against the Trae Young-less Hawks will provide a perfect opportunity for Philadelphia to show us if they really mean business. Games against the Thunder and Spurs either side of those two should be wins. Are the Sixers stumbling at the final hurdles before the playoffs?

5. Denver Nuggets

NBA Championship Odds: +4200
Current Record: 39-21
Previous Ranking: 7

What Denver is doing is nothing short of incredible. They have won five of their last six games, all since losing Jamal Murray to a torn ACL, including a 3-1 week. Wins over Memphis and Portland, the latter being on the road, showed that this team is still a contender despite losing their young star. The issue is that Will Barton soon joined him on the sidelines with a serious hamstring injury and the lack of depth will surely have to catch up with the Nuggets. 

Injuries allow opportunity though and PJ Dozier has taken his opportunity by the scruff of the neck. The three man combination of Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr and Dozier, albeit a small sample size, is outscoring opponents by 21.5 points per 100 possessions. All Denver needs to do is stay afloat, four games clear of LA in fifth while sitting just two losses back from the Clippers in third. Denver hosts the Clippers to round out the week and that game could end up being one of the games of the season given the seeding ramifications and recent history between the two sides.

6. Atlanta Hawks

NBA Championship Odds: +19000
Current Record: 34-27
Previous Ranking: 9

Atlanta just keeps on climbing up the rankings, up to sixth following a 3-1 week which including wins over Miami and Milwaukee. The best bit about both of those wins, is they were without Trae Young yet still managed to get the job done. The Hawks are now 20-7 since Nate McMillan took over as head coach, the best record in the East over that stretch.

The combination of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Lou Williams has allowed the Hawks to win their last five without Young in the lineup. The pair were instrumental in the win over Milwaukee, combining for 27 fourth quarter points. This week is quite dangerous though as they back up in Detroit one night after beating the Bucks and that is followed by two games in Philadelphia. Given they are tied for fourth but also just two games ahead of 7th and the play-in spot, everything is on the line for the Hawks right now.

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7. Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Championship Odds: +750
Current Record: 37-23
Previous Ranking: 8

While their two wins over Philadelphia were impressive, the losses to Phoenix and Atlanta on either side were quite alarming. For the month of April, Milwaukee has the worst fourth quarter defense in the league, highlighted by allowing two Atlanta players to score 27 points by themselves in a 26-41 quarter that saw them blow their lead.

The positive for Milwaukee is that they are just two games back from Philadelphia in second and only 3.5 games back from Brooklyn in first. They still play the Nets twice before the regular season ends, the first of those being at home this Sunday. Games in Charlotte, Houston and Chicago should be seen as good tune up opportunities before what is essentially the first of two grand finals for this team on Sunday. 

8. New York Knicks

NBA Championship Odds: +16000
Current Record: 34-27
Previous Ranking: 10

The streak has reached nine games! New York is on pace for their best season since 2013 with Julius Randle leading the way. Wins over Charlotte, Atlanta and Toronto were all tough and not necessarily expected but the Knicks are rolling at the moment. Thanks to shooting more threes and making them at a better percentage, the Knicks offense is third overall during this stretch and their defense is as good as ever.

Things get difficult for them this week though. Hosting Phoenix, the best road team in the league, is a much harder test than anything they have faced during their streak. If they can survive that, a home game against Chicago followed by three days rest before playing in Houston and this streak could go sky high. They have to beat Phoenix though…

9. Utah Jazz

NBA Championship Odds: +700
Current Record: 44-16
Previous Ranking: 6

While a 2-1 week seems positive, the Utah Jazz are still crumbling without Donovan Mitchell and need to find a way to piece it together, sooner rather than later. Mitchell ranks third in the league for clutch time usage rate and with him in street clothes, the Jazz are suffering. After leading by as many as 17 in the first half, at home, against the Timberwolves, Utah saw their lead dwindle away, eventually losing. 

They get an opportunity for payback to start the week, completing the home-and-home set in Minnesota on Monday. That is an absolute must win game for Utah as a matchup in Phoenix is one of the three remaining games for the week after that. With just a two game gap between the sides at the top of the conference, wins are crucial now more than ever for the league-leading Jazz. 

10. Boston Celtics

NBA Championship Odds: +5000
Current Record: 32-29
Previous Ranking: 5

Things were looking so positive for the Celtics but that was extremely short lived. A Monday night, home loss to the struggling Bulls set the tone for what ended up being 1-3 week for Boston. Beating the Suns was important, but catching them on the second night of a back to back was lucky. What followed was a disappointing loss to the depleted Nets before losing to the just-as-depleted Hornets. 

Boston is still figuring out where they fit in all of this but performances like they had on Sunday in Charlotte are inexcusable. Last week saw Jayson Tatum commit 19 of Boston’s 71 turnovers for the week while shooting a dismal 34% from the field. As the leader of the team, he needs to step up and start performing like the two-time All Star that he is, before it is too late. 

11. Golden State Warriors

NBA Championship Odds: +24000
Current Record: 31-30
Previous Ranking: 13

The Warriors will end up wherever Steph Curry allows them to end up. His average shooting performance in Washington was the team’s only loss for the week, with wins over Philadelphia, on the road, Denver and Sacramento highlighted by his brilliant touch and form. Kelly Oubre Jr also returned to the lineup and has embraced a bench role, scoring in bunches while shooting efficiently, especially down the stretch.

Golden State is now 4.5 games clear of missing the play-in altogether while being just 1.5 games behind Portland in seventh. With games against Dallas, Minnesota and Houston, the Warriors should be aiming high with another three wins being a very realistic opportunity. 

12. Dallas Mavericks

NBA Championship Odds: +4200
Current Record: 33-26
Previous Ranking: 15

The wheels were falling off for Dallas but a 3-0 week, including two wins over the Lakers, cemented the Mavs spot in the standings. Not only do those two wins give Dallas a 1.5 game edge over Portland in seventh, but they also bring the Mavs to within 1.5 games of the Lakers in fifth, a much favorable position to be in. 

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis still need more minutes on the floor together heading into the playoffs. Doncic has currently played more minutes without KP on the floor than with him on it, something that is alarming for the sixth seed. A massive five game week, with four of those games coming against opponents with losing records, gives Dallas a perfect opportunity to continue hunting down the Lakers with only a few weeks left in the season.

13. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 31-28
Previous Ranking: 12

Despite going just 2-2, this was a very positive week for the Grizzlies. They took the surging Denver Nuggets to double overtime and only just lost by two points before finishing the week with back to back wins in Portland. On top of that, they welcomed back Jaren Jackson Jr to the lineup for the first time since August and he looked really good in his limited minutes. Their two wins over Portland, seventh in the West, allowed them to climb to just half a game behind them in the standings whilst keeping a game gap between them and the Spurs in ninth. 

Looking to this week and the Grizzlies will be hoping that their momentum can help them get some revenge as Monday night has them scheduled against the Nuggets again. They then play Portland for the third and final time before a home-and-home set with Orlando. They don’t need to win both, but the games against Denver and Portland can really launch this side into gear with the playoffs just around the corner. 

14. Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Championship Odds: +350
Current Record: 35-25
Previous Ranking: 11

Anthony Davis may have returned to the lineup this week but he was extremely rusty and the Lakers seem to have bigger issues at the moment. Andre Drummond was a massive signing for the Lakers but teams are targeting him defensively and LA are suffering because of it. He is becoming a liability on defense, especially in high pick and rolls, with LA unable to hide him.

The two losses to Dallas hurt the Lakers’ position in the standings but four games against teams with losing records this week certainly helps them get back on track. Playing in Washington on Wednesday may see them go in as underdogs, but Orlando, Sacramento and Toronto either side of that should see this team pick up three wins and start aiming towards the playoffs. 

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15. Miami Heat

NBA Championship Odds: +4200
Current Record: 32-29
Previous Ranking: 16

There may be no player more valuable to his team than Jimmy Butler to the Heat. While they didn’t need him to overcome the lowly Rockets, Butler guided Miami to wins in San Antonio and against the Bulls. When playing in Atlanta, the Heat were outscored by 15 points in the 10:49 that Butler sat on the bench, unable to keep up with the Trae Young-less Hawks. 

Just how far can Butler lead this team, especially with niggles to key role players like Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Realistically, Miami has four very winnable games, hosting the Bulls and Spurs before playing in Cleveland and Charlotte. Given all four of those teams have a worse record and Miami needs to keep winning to get a guaranteed playoff spot, the time is now for Butler and the Heat.

16. San Antonio Spurs

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 30-29
Previous Ranking: 18

The Spurs keep doing enough to stay alive in the Western Conference logjam, completing a 3-1 week that now sees them 4.5 games clear of New Orleans in 11th. A big home loss to the Heat is obviously far from ideal but a win in Indiana as well as a come from behind win over New Orleans showed that DeMar DeRozan has this team playing well enough to compete.

The Spurs play three of their four games on the road this week, which shouldn’t be an issue given their 17-10 road record as well as owning the fifth best road defense in the league. However, their opponents may be an issue. Washington, who have won eight straight games. Miami, who just beat them by 20. Boston, who needs to win to stay alive more than anyone right now. They then finish the week by hosting the Sixers. Talk about tough.

17. Indiana Pacers

NBA Championship Odds: +19000
Current Record: 29-31
Previous Ranking: 17

A home loss to San Antonio, compounded by the fact that both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner have gone down with injury, was a far from ideal start to the week. Luckily for the Pacers they finished it by playing the Thunder, Pistons and Magic, three of the bottom five teams in the league.

With home games against Portland and Brooklyn on the cards this week, Indiana will need more than just Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert to stay afloat. Sabonis could return early while Turner could be done until the playoffs, or more. The Pacers, ninth in the East, currently have a four game edge over Chicago, 11th, so that should be enough to secure a play-in spot, but is that enough?

18. Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Championship Odds: +8000
Current Record: 32-28
Previous Ranking: 14

This week was disastrous from Portland, but was so close to being something completely different. Their first three losses of the week were by a field goal or less and each saw them have an opportunity to steal it. CJ McCollum missed a shot to beat the Clippers, Norman Powell missed a shot to beat the Nuggets, Jusuf Nurkic missed a layup to beat the Grizzlies, and by their second matchup with Memphis to close the week, they were mentally and physically fatigued.

Portland has now lost five straight, have slipped out of a secure playoff spot and into seventh in the West, just 0.5 games clear of Memphis and just 1 game clear of Golden State in 10th. It isn’t farfetched to say that their streak could extend to nine either. Four games, all on the road, against Indiana, Memphis, Brooklyn and Boston could all be losses, especially given how they are playing right now. 

19. Washington Wizards

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 27-33
Previous Ranking: 21

Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook are willing the Wizards into the play-ins. Another 4-0 week has seen Washington extend their winning streak to eight, the second longest active streak in the league. While their opponents weren’t anything to write home about, Oklahoma twice, Cleveland and the Warriors at the end of their road trip, Washington did what they needed to do. Win.

Starting the week by hosting the in-form Spurs, one night after playing Cleveland, is quite harsh for the Wizards, especially when the Lakers roll into town two nights later. They then play in Cleveland and in Dallas on back to back nights and what was a fairytale run could soon be a nightmare for the Wizards. They need two wins at a minimum to stay ahead of Toronto and Chicago who are hot on their heels for the 10-seed. 

20. Charlotte Hornets

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 30-30
Previous Ranking: 19

Charlotte seems to keep staying afloat despite their key injuries remaining sidelined. A 2-2 week is actually quite good considering they started by losing in New York and in Chicago. The clear performance of the week was their 21 point win over Boston, scoring at will while locking down defensively. PJ Washington has been the key. With him moving to center, their offense has become unstoppable and will be something that sticks down the stretch.

LaMelo Ball is expected to make his return this week and it couldn’t come soon enough for them. Sitting just 1.5 games behind Boston and Miami for a guaranteed playoff spot is where Charlotte needs to be aiming for and it is very achievable. A back to back against Milwaukee and Boston may make that hard but hosting Detroit and Miami to finish the week should see them back on track.

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21. New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 26-34
Previous Ranking: 20

As the games go by, the Pelican’s chances of making the play-in games get smaller. A loss to the KD & Harden-less Nets, at home, is one that got away while a home loss to the Spurs, where they started favorites, is another that they will look back on and regret. New Orleans once had a fast-paced high scoring offense but during April they rank just 26th offensively while still being terrible on defense.

A Monday night matchup with the Clippers awaits, however they beat them by 20 last time they met. If they can conjure some of that energy then it will go a long way to keeping their chances alive. OKC and Minnesota to close out the week, despite both being on the road, have to be wins, but we aren’t confident they can get both.

22. Toronto Raptors

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 25-35
Previous Ranking: 22

Just two games for Toronto last week and they will be kicking themselves they didn’t get both. After beating at Brooklyn and finally getting Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby back on the floor together, they let one get away in New York on Saturday.

The Raptors now have a massive five game schedule and they have to start on a positive note as it only gets tougher as the week goes on. After starting with Cleveland, the Raptors play Brooklyn, in Denver, in Utah and in LA against the Lakers. Given they sit two games back from 10th with only 12 games remaining, wins are essential and they need to beat teams better than them now.

23. Chicago Bulls

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 25-35
Previous Ranking: 23

An extremely disappointing week for Chicago. After beating the Celtics, in Boston, the Bulls should have gone on to have a really positive week but they ended up just 2-2. None was worse than their loss in Cleveland, a game they will be wishing they could have again. 

Zach LaVine’s absence is seriously hurting the Bulls and with Nikola Vucevic leading the way, it is hard to tell if this side is better than the Orlando one Vucevic started the season on. Given they are in the exact same spot as Toronto, wins must come now. They have a rematch with Miami before playing in New York, vs Milwaukee and in Atlanta. This week could easily be four losses and the end of their season.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 17-44
Previous Ranking: 25

Minnesota are in danger of playing themselves out of the bottom three and the best chance at the number one pick. Given their trade with Golden State last season, if their pick was to fall out of the top three, they would be forced to send it to the Warriors but their play is just too good at the moment. With Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, off the bench, Minnesota has the 13th ranked offense since the All Star break and just beat the Jazz, in Utah.

They have a rematch with Utah, at home, on Monday before playing the Rockets, Warriors and Pelicans. While you could easily say that should be a 1-3 week, beating Houston and losing to the rest, it isn’t that simple. Their second half in Utah was breathtaking and if they carry that form over, they could beat all four of these teams this week. 

25. Sacramento Kings

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 24-36
Previous Ranking: 24

Splitting a two game home series with Minnesota was followed by news that De’Aaron Fox would be missing 10-14 days due to health and safety protocols. That is a massive blow for a team that is now no chance of making the play-in and will tie the NBA record for consecutive years without a playoff berth. 

The positive is that it means they can get some decent minutes into breakout rookie sensation Tyrese Halliburton, but this is a massive disappointment for Sacramento. Two games against Dallas on either side of games against the Jazz and Lakers could see another four losses for the Kings and add even more misery. 

26. Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 21-39
Previous Ranking: 26

Cleveland has been nothing short of disappointing in the second half of the season. A home win over Chicago can be seen as a positive but losing in Detroit to start the week is inexcusable. No one really expects much from this team but their shooting and playmaking is deplorable. 

Darius Garland had a good week, which is some form of vindication for the front office who took a chance by drafting him after taking Collin Sexton the previous year. The pair seem to get along and also play well together, the issue is getting them both on the court at the same time.

27. Detroit Pistons

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 18-43
Previous Ranking: 28

A win over Cleveland to start the week was a positive sign for the Pistons but the real revelation has been Josh Jackson. After bouncing around multiple teams, Jackson has really come into his own on the Detroit roster and looks like a solid rotation player. In saying that, this Detroit side is seriously young and inexperienced, with Sekou Doumbouya being the player with the most games for Detroit currently on the roster.

The Pistons are just a game behind Orlando, which is where they want to be as they currently have a bottom three record. Any more meaningless wins and they may find themselves decreasing their chances of winning the number one pick in the lottery.

28. Houston Rockets

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 15-46
Previous Ranking: 27

After their 0-4 week, Houston are now the worst team in basketball. While they played teams that are currently seeded seventh or higher in their conference, the Rockets had just one game decided by less than 13 points and they averaged just 100 points per game offensively. 

John Wall appears to be done for the season which is actually a positive for Houston. It allows them to get more minutes into their young players that will actually help them in the future. Kevin Porter Jr missed three games last week but is already a confirmed starter for their first game against the Timberwolves.

29. Orlando Magic

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 18-42
Previous Ranking: 29

Orlando continues to be bad, regardless of who they play against. They have lost five straight games now and to make things worse, Steve Clifford won’t be able to coach for the next few games as he deals with a positive COVID-19 test. 

The one positive for Orlando is that Cole Anthony continues to get better with each game he plays after returning from a 4+ week rib injury. He will be invaluable to this team in the future and the more minutes he gets now, the better for the Magic down the road.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 20-40
Previous Ranking: 30

Oklahoma City went 0-3 last week and picked up their 13th straight loss. They are still glued to the bottom of the league when it comes to offensive rating and it doesn’t look like changing any time soon. The team is actively tanking with their scheduled rest days for young, uninjured players and it may be some time before we see the Thunder competing again.

*Odds correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.

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Tim is a keen follower of all American sports, in particular the NBA and NFL. He has followed both sports for over a decade and would happily sit down and watch every game, regardless of who is playing! No matter the sport, whether it be NFL and NBA or even MLB, NHL, UFC and all sports, Tim covers it from every angle, staying in the loop to bring you the most up-to-date information and the best picks and predictions on the market.