SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Week 20

SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Week 20
Tue 4th May 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?

Phoenix and Philadelphia have claimed top spot of their conferences and are one and two in the rankings, respectively. The Clippers winless week sees them slipping down the rankings and down the standings too!

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

1. Phoenix Suns

NBA Championship Odds: +2400
Current Record: 40-16
Previous Ranking: 3

The Phoenix Suns have claimed the best record in the league and reclaimed top spot of our NBA Power Rankings. After a perfect 4-0, there was no question that Phoenix should return to the top after wins over the Knicks, in New York, Clippers and Jazz. 

Given that they hold the season series over Utah, they are in prime position to hang on to the number one seed, as long as they win the games they should. A back to back set in Cleveland and Atlanta should be no dramas before closing the week out at home against the Knicks and in Los Angeles against the Lakers. They will go in as favorites for all four of those and they are games they should be winning.

2. Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Championship Odds: +1400
Current Record: 39-17
Previous Ranking: 4

Another team that had a 4-0 week and is now on top of their conference, the Philadelphia 76ers. The team is back to full health and playing some very good basketball at the moment. While their opponents last week weren’t quite at the same level as Phoenix’s, back to back wins over the Hawks were important and impressive.

This week sees the Sixers play four opponents who all have a record under 0.500 and they simply should win all four. With the Nets just half a game behind them and  a much tougher fixture this week, Philadelphia could create some distance between themselves and Brooklyn. 

3. Denver Nuggets

NBA Championship Odds: +1400
Current Record: 36-20
Previous Ranking: 5

What Denver has done, not only this last week, but over the last few weeks has been incredible. After losing their second best player, Jamal Murray, and another starter in Will Barton, the Nuggets have gone 9-1 over their last 10 games including a 4-0 week last week. Nikola Jokic continues to put the team on his back and will them to victory, with the Joker soon to become the MVP of the league. The Nuggets beat the likes of Memphis, New Orleans and Toronto during the week before going to Los Angeles and beating the Clippers. 

That win is extremely important as it allowed Denver to move up to third in the conference but also gave them the season series win over LA, should the sides need a tiebreaker at season’s end. The issue is that the Nuggets have one of the toughest remaining schedules and this week sees them play the Lakers (away), Knicks, Jazz (away) and Nets, with the latter two being a back to back set. While they hold a half game lead over the Clippers now, that could be gone by mid-week, let alone by the end of it.

4. Brooklyn Nets

NBA Championship Odds: +230
Current Record: 38-19
Previous Ranking: 2

It is tough to judge how this week actually went for Brooklyn. They went just 2-2 but Kevin Durant didn’t play in one of the losses while the other was a nailbiter in Milwaukee, losing by just three points. That game is potentially a preview of a second round playoff matchup and with the Bucks giving Brooklyn their A-game now, it will help the Nets if that series were to eventuate.

Brooklyn has another game in Milwaukee before playing in Dallas and Denver to close out the week. While they have just three games, all are extremely difficult and against in-form teams, so Durant and Kyrie Irving will need to be at their best. While they are just half a game behind the Sixers for top place in the East, their remaining fixture is much harder, as you can see with this week.

5. Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Championship Odds: +950
Current Record: 35-21
Previous Ranking: 7

The Milwaukee Bucks rise up the NBA Power Rankings and could have their sights set on rising up the standings too. A 3-1 week, only losing when Giannis Antetokounmpo got injured in the first minute of the game, was highlighted by their three point win over the Nets on Sunday. That win moved the Bucks to just 2.5 games behind the Nets for second and they play them again on Tuesday, which could be one of the most important games of the season for both clubs.

Following that matchup with the Nets, Milwaukee plays the next night against the red-hot Wizards before hosting the Rockets. Given all three games are at home, Milwaukee could easily win all three, and they will need to if they are any chance of moving from third place. 

6. Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Championship Odds: +600
Current Record: 40-19
Previous Ranking: 1

One of the biggest falls of the week is the Los Angeles Clippers. After back to back weeks on top of the rankings, LA went 0-3 and lost their crown. Losses in New Orleans and Phoenix are almost excusable but the home loss to Denver, with Kawhi Leonard back on the floor, is not. That defeat means that the Clippers lost the season series with the Nuggets, making it even harder to now overcome them in the standings. 

Currently in fourth place, half a game behind the Nuggets, LA needs to win now, more than ever. Home games over the lowly Raptors, struggling Lakers and Knicks, who are far worse away from home, should see the Clippers start as big favorites in all three. If they are serious about having success this postseason, those three games all need to be wins. 

7. New York Knicks

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 31-27
Previous Ranking: 8

Just two teams in the league are 9-1 over their last 10 games, the Nuggets and the New York Knicks. While a home loss to Phoenix snapped their nine game winning streak, they bounced back in emphatic fashion with big wins over the Bulls and Rockets. 

The test for the Knicks, and what will determine where they finish in the standings, is this week. New York are on the road, where they are 14-17 this season, for four games, against the Grizzlies, Nuggets, Suns and Clippers. The latter three teams all have a better overall record than the Knicks and losing all three of them could cost New York a home first round playoff series. 

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8. Utah Jazz

NBA Championship Odds: +750
Current Record: 42-15
Previous Ranking: 9

The Jazz continue to be an average team with Donovan Mitchell on the sidelines. Utah has gone just 4-4 since losing him to an ankle injury, going 2-2 last week. The loss to Minnesota, losing the season series 0-3, will continue to be a head-scratcher, but the other results went as expected. A massive win over the Kings, a big loss to the Suns before beating the Raptors. 

Utah’s record is tied with Phoenix but they are behind them in the standings due to losing the season series. That means that through their last eight games, the Jazz need one more win than the Suns to reclaim top spot of the conference. Two games against San Antonio before a Denver & Houston back to back, all at home, presents four winnable games, but can they actually do it?

9. Boston Celtics

NBA Championship Odds: +6000
Current Record: 31-26
Previous Ranking: 10

Like last week, the Celtics started this one by losing at home to a terrible team. Last week it was Chicago and this week it was the Thunder. That sort of performance epitomises how Boston has played this season and they are lucky that they are still a chance to avoid the play-in all together. If it wasn’t for Jayson Tatum’s 60 point masterpiece against the Spurs, Boston would have had a 1-3 week and this would be a whole different discussion.

Boston currently sits seventh in the East, half a game behind Miami and a secured playoff spot. Luckily for them, they have an easier run home than they Heat which includes playing the lowly Magic and Bulls this week. They then face the Heat twice, the first being this Sunday and once again, luck is on the side of the Celtics, given the two game set with Miami will be in Boston.  

10. Atlanta Hawks

NBA Championship Odds: +19000
Current Record: 31-26
Previous Ranking: 6

This was quite a disappointing week for the Hawks, going just 1-3. The positive is that Trae Young returned to the floor much earlier than expected after a bad ankle sprain and looks as if it isn’t impacting his play. Back to back big losses in Philadelphia aren’t a good sign, especially given that they could play each other in the second round, if things go the way they currently are and both sides win in the opening round.

Despite playing just three games, this week is extremely tough for the Hawks. They start by hosting the red-hot Blazers, who have won four in a row, before hosting the Suns, who have the best record in the league and the best road record, before playing in Indiana, on the second night of a back to back. Atlanta needs at least one win but will be hoping for two, especially given how tight it is in the middle of the East. 

11. Dallas Mavericks

NBA Championship Odds: +420
Current Record: 30-26
Previous Ranking: 12

Dallas will be very thankful that they don’t have to face Sacramento again this season. The Mavs had a 3-2 week with both losses coming at the hands of the Kings, with Dallas being swept by Sacramento, 3-0, for the season. Outside of those two performances, the Mavericks got big wins over Golden State and Detroit before hanging on against the Wizards. Those three wins have allowed Dallas to stay in fifth in the West, albeit a three way tie with the Lakers and Blazers. 

With a much easier remaining schedule than their two main competitors right now, Dallas is in a good spot to hang out to the fifth seed, but playing in Miami before hosting Brooklyn is a tough two game in three day slate. A home-and-home series with the Cavs should be wins, but you never know…

12. Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Championship Odds: +8000
Current Record: 32-24
Previous Ranking: 18

What a difference a week makes. After losing five straight games, four of which were at home, the Blazers had a 4-0 week, all on the road. All four of their wins, over the Pacers, Grizzlies, Nets and Celtics, were all by 10+ points and have given this team some serious momentum heading towards the end of the season.

Starting the week in Atlanta, on the second night of a back to back, is tough, but if they can get through that then the week opens up a bit. They then play in Cleveland before returning home to host the struggling Lakers and the Spurs, who will be on the second night of a back to back. Given their three way tie for fifth with Dallas and Los Angeles, that game against the Lakers becomes even more important for seeding, one that they will have circled as a must win.

13. Miami Heat

NBA Championship Odds: +3600
Current Record: 29-28
Previous Ranking: 15

While all four of their opponents were worse off in the standings, Miami did what they needed to do and escaped the week with a 3-1 record. They will be kicking themselves for losing to the Bulls, at home, but to finish the week with a win in Charlotte, over a Hornets side that had beaten them in their previous two matchups, was important. 

Miami now holds a half game lead over the Celtics for sixth in the East, avoiding the play-in, and they will be looking at some must win games this week. The Heat host the Mavericks before getting two nights off before hosting the in-form Timberwolves. Both of those, at home, will be seen as must wins as they close the week out in Boston. 

14. Golden State Warriors

NBA Championship Odds: +24000
Current Record: 28-29
Previous Ranking: 11

Last week seems like it was a massive missed opportunity for the Warriors. Sitting at an even 32-32 and ninth in the West, Golden State could have easily gone 3-0 to jump ahead of Memphis in the standings. A home game against Dallas, who were on the second night of the back to back, saw the Warriors come out flat and lack urgency, getting blown out of the park.  

Splitting games with the lowly Timberwolves and Rockets is far from ideal and Golden State needs to turn things around now. The Warriors play back to back games in New Orleans before hosting the Thunder for back to back games. They could easily go 4-0 this week, but the Pelicans won’t be push-overs. 

15. Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Championship Odds: +350
Current Record: 35-22
Previous Ranking: 14

After winning just once last week and currently being on a three game losing streak, the Lakers are lucky they didn’t slip any further. The only reason they didn’t is that LeBron James returned to the floor after six weeks in street clothes. While they didn’t win either game he played, it was a positive step towards getting this team ready for the postseason.

Los Angeles are currently in a three-way tie for fifth place in the West, with Dallas and Portland. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they have the hardest remaining schedule of the three teams and this week could break them. The host the Nuggets on the quick back up, one night after losing to the Raptors, before playing the Clippers and Blazers on back to back nights. They then close out the week by hosting the league-leading Suns. Is a 0-4 week on the way?

16. Washington Wizards

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 23-33
Previous Ranking: 19

From rags to riches, the Washington Wizards continued playing exciting and effective basketball last week. They finished with just a 2-2 week, meaning they have gone 12-3 over their last 15 games. The 2-2 record also doesn’t do them any justice, with their two losses being by a combined four points with one of the games going to overtime.

The Wizards now sit three games clear of 11th and just half a game behind the Pacers in ninth. What makes the standings even more tight is the fact that Washington faces Indiana twice this week, games that will decide play-in seeding. It is actually a tough week for Washington, hosting the Pacers before three games on the road against the Bucks, Raptors and Pacers. The way this team is playing, at least three wins isn’t out of the question.

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17. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 29-26
Previous Ranking: 13

This week couldn’t have gone worse for the Grizzlies. Memphis were blown out of the water by Denver and Portland before splitting a home-and-home with the Magic. That’s right, the team that has a positive record and is in playoff contention, lost to an Orlando team that is trying to lose.

Memphis will be hoping to turn things around this week though, playing four games with three of those against teams with records below 0.500. In saying that, they host the Knicks to start the week and given both sides’ form, that could easily be a loss. They then play in Minnesota, a team that is in much better form than them at the moment as well. With Golden State just a half game behind them, the Grizzlies need to win now to ensure they get the double chance play-in seed, as they will need it.

18. Indiana Pacers

NBA Championship Odds: +13000
Current Record: 26-30
Previous Ranking: 17

While the Pacers broke NBA records during the week by having the biggest road victory in league history, it was actually quite a bad week for Indiana. The 57 point win over the Thunder has masked the two games earlier in the week, double digit losses to the Blazers and Nets. 

Indiana has their fate in their hands, sitting a game behind the eighth placed Hornets and a half game ahead of the tenth place Wizards. With two games against Washington this week, Indiana needs to win at least one of them if they are to have any chance of staying ninth or even climbing. Their current form doesn’t indicate they can do that though.

19. Charlotte Hornets

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 28-28
Previous Ranking: 20

Charlotte had a tough week last week, playing Milwaukee, Boston and Miami, all losses. They would have been hoping for at least one win from those three games, especially considering that they had previously beaten the Celtics and Heat, but that wasn’t how the week transpired. The positive for Charlotte is that LaMelo Ball returned to the court after a lengthy stint on the sidelines, helping them in a win over Detroit. 

Sitting eighth in the East and just one game ahead of the Pacers, Charlotte has been blessed with an easy week. They play four games, all against opponents that have a record below 0.500, with three of them being at home. Despite Ball’s return, the Hornets won’t be able to make any postseason noise with Gordon Hayward on the sidelines, and he is still without a timetable to return.

20. New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Championship Odds: +24000
Current Record: 25-32
Previous Ranking: 21

Every game sees New Orleans with their backs against the wall, and they are playing like it too. A 3-1 week keeps their postseason chances alive, especially with a win over the Clippers in there as well. Their one loss was by just two points to the hottest team in the league, Denver, showing just how well they are going at the moment.

This week will make or break the Pelicans’ season. They start with a home back to back against the Warriors, the team three games ahead of them in the standings and, along with San Antonio, keeping them out of the play-in. If New Orleans can win both games, it will give them life and see them with a genuine chance to extend their season. 

21. San Antonio Spurs

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 27-28
Previous Ranking: 16

Given how tight the race to the postseason is in the West, a 1-3 week is far from ideal for the Spurs. It was a massive week of ‘almosts’ for San Antonio, with three games being decided in overtime, going 1-2 in those games. Their game against Boston will be the one they look back on and regret, being up by as many as 32 in the first half before losing in overtime. 

Things don’t get any easier this week, playing two games in Utah. While the Jazz’s form isn’t that good either, they are playing must-win games every night and San Antonio hasn’t shown the hunger and desire needed to get the job done. With all four games on the road this season, three of which against opponents with better records, the Spurs might be in danger of slipping even more.

22. Toronto Raptors

NBA Championship Odds: +12000
Current Record: 24-34
Previous Ranking: 22

Given the Raptors need as many wins as possible to keep their slim chances of sneaking into the tenth seed alive, a 2-3 week is what was, potentially better than, expected from them last week. Wins over Cleveland and the Lakers bookended losses to Brooklyn, Denver and Utah. They really weren’t expected to win any of those apart from the Cavs game, so to get an extra win is a bonus.

Ultimately, it just isn’t enough. They are still three games behind the Wizards, who are 10th in the East, and Washington is playing much better basketball than them right now. The Raptors finish their road trip against the Clippers before returning home to host the Wizards, a game that could be the final nail in the coffin.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 15-43
Previous Ranking: 24

Minnesota continues to play some really inspired basketball in the back half of the season and they will be kicking themselves that they didn’t finish it 4-0. After knocking off the Jazz, Rockets and Warriors, they fell to the Pelicans in overtime to snap their four game winning streak and ruin their perfect week. 

While the winning is showing some positive signs for next season and beyond, the Timberwolves might be shooting themselves in the foot a bit here. If their draft pick falls out of the top three, they have to send it to Golden State. The wins are great, but with no chance of making the playoffs, keeping their draft pick should be a higher priority.

24. Sacramento Kings

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 23-34
Previous Ranking: 25

Despite a 49 point loss during the week, it was actually very positive for Sacramento. They finished the week 3-1 with two wins over Dallas and a win in LA over the Lakers. The Kings ended up sweeping the season series with Dallas 3-0 while winning theirs with the Lakers 2-1. 

To do all of that with De’Aaron Fox on the sidelines shows that there are some really good young pieces on the team, unfortunately it is too little too late. While wins look good, Sacramento will now be without Fox and rookie sensation Tyrese Halliburton for what seems to be the remainder of the season and improving their draft positioning should be a priority. 

25. Chicago Bulls

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 23-33
Previous Ranking: 23

Another week of struggling without Zach LaVine. While there are reports that LaVine has cleared the health and safety protocols and could rejoin the team this week, too much damage has already been done. Chicago managed just one win from four games this week, however all four games were against playoff bound opponents, so to steal a win is a plus. 

There is still a slim chance, if everything falls their way, that the Bulls could make the playoffs. But it is better to stop hoping for improbable situations and start looking towards next season for Chicago fans.

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26. Orlando Magic

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 18-39
Previous Ranking: 29

A three spot rise in the rankings for Orlando after a 2-2 week. Their win over the Cavs, who are as bad as anybody at the moment, was important for this young core but the performance of the week was a home win over the Grizzlies. Cole Anthony continues to impress with the ball in his hands and gives the Magic some hope for the future. 

27. Detroit Pistons

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 17-40
Previous Ranking: 27

A win over Atlanta came out of nowhere but then it was straight back to losing for the Pistons. With them resting Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, despite both being relatively healthy, this team knows that this isn’t their year and are just trying to improve their chances at getting Cade Cunningham or Evan Mobley. 

28. Houston Rockets

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 15-42
Previous Ranking: 28

Despite a 1-3 week, the Rockets will be liking what is happening on the court. Kevin Porter Jr, who they traded a second round pick for, put up a 50 piece on the Milwaukee Bucks, guiding Houston to victory over one of the best teams in the league. Porter Jr is going to be a very important player in this team’s future, so getting him as many minutes along side Christian Wood and Jae’Sean Tate is the priority. 

29. Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 20-36
Previous Ranking: 26

It was a seriously bad week for the Cavs. Cleveland was one of just two teams unable to win a game last week and they really didn’t have that hard of a schedule. Losing, at home, to the Magic is almost inexcusable for this side and now there are reports of players being unhappy with how Collin Sexton, the team’s best player, is controlling the basketball. This is worrying.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 20-37
Previous Ranking: 30

The Thunder are just playing with us now. They extended their losing streak to tie the franchise record at 14 games and then beat the Celtics, in Boston. What team that is actively trying to lose and can’t put a winning effort together suddenly snaps their 14 game winning streak, ensuring it doesn’t create a new franchise record, on the road against a good basketball team. It was straight back to losing though and we are expecting more of that for the remainder of the season.

*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.