SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Week 21

SportsTips’ NBA Power Rankings 2021: Week 21
Tue 11th May 2021

Just one week remains of the regular season and there is so much movement at the top of our NBA Power Rankings!

Four teams had perfect weeks while another four teams went winless, but where has your team ended up? We have analysed every team’s form from the last week of action to find the best NBA Power Rankings heading into the last week of action!

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

1. Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Championship Odds: +800
Current Record: 47-21
Previous Ranking: 2

A 4-0 week extended Philadelphia’s league-leading active winning streak to eight games and they are just one win away from locking up the top spot in the conference, with four games to play. While they didn’t play anyone of note this week, the Sixers did what they needed to to ensure they get the easier run to the Conference Finals, in comparison to both Brooklyn and Milwaukee. 

Playing in Indiana and Miami to start the week will be seen as danger games, especially with both of those teams in a position where wins are more important. However, finishing the season with two home games against the Magic means the Sixers will finish on top of the East and play one of Boston, Charlotte, Washington or Indiana in the first round of the playoffs. 

2. Utah Jazz

NBA Championship Odds: +600
Current Record: 50-18
Previous Ranking: 8

Much like the Sixers, Utah has used a perfect week to lock up top spot of the conference. A 4-0 week by the Jazz has seen them move two games clear of the Suns with both sides having just four games left. Back to back wins over San Antonio before beating the Nuggets, all without Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, showed how deep and talented this bunch of players is. 

Utah has an easier remaining schedule than the Suns, playing at Golden State before hosting Portland, but finishing against the Thunder and Kings. Given the Suns hold the tiebreaker, the Jazz can only afford to lose one less game than Phoenix this week, but given how they are playing at the moment, we expect them to hold on.

3. Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Championship Odds: +800
Current Record: 43-24
Previous Ranking: 5

Milwaukee’s perfect week sees them jump up our NBA Power Rankings and it wasn’t just the winning, it was who they beat. The Bucks started the week with their second straight victory over the Nets, clinching the season series and the tiebreaker, should it come to that at the end of the week. That was a vital win as if they can jump Brooklyn to sit second, a home second round series between the two sides makes a massive difference. 

The Bucks do have a tough remaining schedule, playing a massive five games in the final week, when most other teams play just four. That means they start and end the week with back to backs and play three of their five games on the road. Can they overcome all of this to be able to at least tie Brooklyn’s record? 

4. Phoenix Suns

NBA Championship Odds: +1900
Current Record: 48-20
Previous Ranking: 1

This was quite a disappointing week for the Suns. After beating Utah and claiming the one-seed in the West, going just 2-2 has seen them fall two games behind the Jazz and all but locking in second spot. The loss to Atlanta, while shocking can be excused due to playing in an overtime win the night before. But they shouldn’t have needed overtime to beat the lowly Cavs and should have allowed their starters’ to be rested. 

The Sunday loss to the Lakers is a worrying sign, especially if things hold the way they currently are and the two sides meet in the opening round of the playoffs. Phoenix has four games to try and climb over the top of the Jazz for top spot but playing on the road against Golden State and the Spurs twice, as well as hosting Portland, is one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league. 

5. Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Championship Odds: +600
Current Record: 45-23
Previous Ranking: 6

The Clippers will be kicking themselves for their poor showing on Sunday afternoon against the Knicks. While they still hold a one game lead over the Nuggets for third in the West, Los Angeles could have been within striking distance of the Suns in second if they beat the Knicks. 

However they must settle for a 2-1 week and simply need to win more games than Denver this week to lock up the three-seed. The Clippers finish the season with four road games, so that may work against them, but all four opponents are below 0.500 and LA should be beating all of them. 

6. Brooklyn Nets

NBA Championship Odds: +210
Current Record: 44-24
Previous Ranking: 4

It was a tough week for the Nets, playing three road games against teams that are seeded fifth or higher in their conference and all in good form. However a 1-2 week could have easily been 3-0 if shots were hit and defense was played. Narrow losses to the Bucks and Mavs seem to be overlooked because of a spectacular come from behind win in Denver after being down by as much as 21. But they were still down by 21 to the Nuggets…

The Nets hold just a half game lead over the Bucks for second in the East, and due to that loss to them to begin last week, they don’t own the tiebreaker. It is pretty simple for the Nets, win more games than Brooklyn does to hold on to second spot. Given they play the Bulls, Spurs, Bulls and Cavs to finish the season, we think they should be able to do that. 

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7. Dallas Mavericks

NBA Championship Odds: +4200
Current Record: 40-28
Previous Ranking: 11

The fourth and final team to have a perfect week, Dallas. Going 4-0 has allowed the Mavs to move one game clear of Portland, which is important given that the Blazers hold the tiebreaker between the two sides. While two wins over the Cavs to close the week aren’t anything to write home about, wins in Dallas and against the Nets were massive. 

Dallas now plays just one of their last four games against an opponent with a winning record but all four games are tough, especially at Memphis before hosting New Orleans on consecutive nights. This means they will have to work hard to hold on to fifth place, a much preferred position (playing the Nuggets) than sixth (playing the Clippers). 

8. Denver Nuggets

NBA Championship Odds: +3000
Current Record: 44-24
Previous Ranking: 3

While they played four very good teams this week, going just 1-3 is obviously worrying for the Nuggets. Beginning the week with a loss to the struggling Lakers is one of their most lop-sided losses of the season and set the tone for the week. Beating the Knicks at home before losing to the Jazz in Utah was expected, but holding a 21 point lead over the Nets and losing that game is disastrous. 

Denver now sits one game back from the Clippers in the standings and has four road games to close out the season. Just one of those teams has a winning record, but Sunday’s matchup in Portland will be a must win for both sides and will simply come down to who wants it more. Especially with the fact that those two sides could meet in the opening round. 

9. New York Knicks

NBA Championship Odds: +12000
Current Record: 38-30
Previous Ranking: 7

To escape last week with a 2-2 record and still holding a one game buffer in fourth in the East is massive for New York. Games in Memphis, Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles, against the Clippers, could have seen four losses for the Knicks, who have seriously struggled on the road this season. 

Sunday’s win over the Clippers is a statement win by the Knicks and will see them carry momentum into the last week of the season. One more game on their road trip this week, against the Lakers, before returning home for three games against struggling opponents, the Spurs, Hornets and Celtics, should see New York hold on for fourth and host an opening round playoff series. 

10. Atlanta Hawks

NBA Championship Odds: +12000
Current Record: 37-31
Previous Ranking: 10

The week that could have been for Atlanta. Massive wins over the in-form Blazers and Suns but then losing to the out of form Pacers. The one difference was the wins were at home and the loss on the road, but given that they will be the road side in any playoff series they play, they can’t be doing that at this stage of the season. 

Atlanta is currently tied with Miami for fifth in the East but holds the tiebreaker between the two sides. That means that in the last week, with both sides having four games left, it comes down to who wants it more. The Hawks have all four games at home and have been helped by the fact that Bradley Beal is OUT for Washington and the Hawks play them twice to open the week. 

11. Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Championship Odds: +5500
Current Record: 39-29
Previous Ranking: 12

A loss in Atlanta that ended their four game winning streak was not the way that Portland wanted to start last week, but they certainly made up for it. Big wins over Cleveland and San Antonio on either side of a win over the Lakers was massive for the Blazers. That win over LA gave the Blazers the season series and tiebreaker between the sides, with Portland now holding the tiebreaker of both LA and Dallas, the two sides either side of them in the standings. 

Portland, sixth in the West, is a game back from Dallas but has their work cut out for them. After hosting Houston, the Blazers play in Utah and in Phoenix on consecutive nights before finishing the season by hosting Denver. Those final three games are close to the toughest last three games of any team in the league and it could see them even slip below the Lakers and into the play-in…

12. Miami Heat

NBA Championship Odds: +4200
Current Record: 37-31
Previous Ranking: 13

Miami did what they needed to this week, going 2-1. The home loss to Dallas was frustrating, but given Jimmy Butler was a late out, it wasn’t unexpected. The most important fixture was Sunday’s win in Boston. Given how close the two sides were in the standings, that win gives Miami a two game gap in sixth. 

The two sides meet again on Tuesday and a win there would mean that the Heat avoid the play-in and will then be fighting the Hawks to climb to fifth. Miami and Atlanta are currently tied but the Hawks own the tiebreaker. That means every game is a must win but hosting the Sixers before playing in Milwaukee, their most likely opening round opponent, may restrict them from moving up.

13. Golden State Warriors

NBA Championship Odds: +24000
Current Record: 35-33
Previous Ranking: 14

An easy week for the Warriors last week, playing the Pelicans twice and Thunder twice. Splitting the two games in New Orleans was a good result before returning home and beating the Thunder by a combined 60 points in their two games. Steph Curry is in incredible form at the moment and will be causing whoever they play in the play-ins and playoffs, should they make it, to worry. 

Entering the final week, Golden State, eighth, holds a half game lead over the Grizzlies and won’t want to drop down. Eighth has the double chance play-in while ninth’s first game is win-or-go-home. The Warriors remaining fixture is tough though, hosting the Jazz, Suns, Pelicans and Grizzlies, in what could be one of the most important games on Sunday’s schedule. 

14. Washington Wizards

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 32-36
Previous Ranking: 16

The Wizards have taken control of their own destiny, beating the Pacers twice and jumping them in the standings, from 10th to ninth in the East. Those two wins now mean that they own the tiebreaker between the sides and just need to win, at least, the same amount of games as them to finish the season, and they host the 9v10 play-in game.

The one thing that hinders that is that Bradley Beal has been sidelined for most of the week with a hamstring injury. Beal is missing the Wizards’ two games in Atlanta to start the week, meaning they will likely lose both and certainly at least one. Finishing the week at home against the Cavs and Hornets gives them some respite, but the damage may be done, if Indiana can get some early wins on the board. 

15. Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Championship Odds: +550
Current Record: 38-30
Previous Ranking: 15

The Lakers caused two of the biggest upsets of the week, beating the Nuggets and Suns, however still had a disappointing week. Their loss in Portland is the one that will come back to bite them at the end of the season, losing the season series and tiebreaker between the sides and all but locking in the seventh seed, forcing them into the play-in.

Of their four remaining games, the Lakers play only one team with a winning record, the Knicks, but New York are at the end of a long road trip, coming off an emotional win and LA get them at home. Given they are a game behind them in the standings and without the tiebreaker, Los Angeles would need to get two more wins than the Blazers this week, but given Portland’s tough schedule and the return of The King, never say never. 

16. Boston Celtics

NBA Championship Odds: +13000
Current Record: 35-33
Previous Ranking: 9

The biggest fall of the week belongs to the Boston Celtics. Not only did they go 1-2, losing to the Bulls by 22 before losing to the Heat, almost guaranteeing them to be in the play-ins, but Jaylen Brown has been sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn thumb ligament. 

The loss of Brown ruins any hope Boston had of being competitive in the postseason and we are willing to go as far as saying that they might not even make the playoffs now. The Celtics, seventh and currently in the play-in, are two games back from Miami and Atlanta with just four games remaining. The Celtics host the Heat on Tuesday in a rematch of Sunday’s loss but ending the season with three straight road games, the last of which is against the Knicks, is tough.

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17. Charlotte Hornets

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 33-35
Previous Ranking: 19

The eighth seed in the East and, currently, Boston’s likely play-in opponent had a 2-2 week and are still trying to figure things out at the moment. Both Devonte’ Graham and Gordon Hayward are still battling their injuries that have kept them sidelined lately, missing all four games last week. Hayward might not even return in time to help the Hornets in the play-ins, but Graham is expected back this week and will give them a boost for some important games. 

Charlotte is just one game clear of Washington and will want to do everything they can to stay eighth or higher and give themselves a double-chance in the postseason. Games against the Nuggets, Clippers and Knicks might suggest otherwise, before playing the Wizards in a massive Sunday matchup. 

18. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 34-33
Previous Ranking: 17

Memphis are playing like they don’t care about the postseason at the moment. A home loss to the Knicks and a loss to the lowly Pistons in the same week, just days before the play-ins start, is far from ideal. Jaren Jackson Jr remains restricted in his minutes and in back to back sets, but that is no excuse for a side that has been struggling lately. 

Memphis enters the week ninth, half a game behind the Warriors, with five games to play. The Grizzlies play two back to backs to start the week, hosting the Pelicans and Mavericks before hosting the Kings for two. The first of those two sets is obviously extremely tough but they would need at least 2-3 wins from those four games before playing the Warriors on the last day of the season in a game that could determine who finishes eighth or ninth. 

19. New Orleans Pelicans

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 31-37
Previous Ranking: 20

New Orleans are the highest ranked team in our NBA Power Rankings that aren’t currently in a postseason slot, but their 2-2 week has them just 1.5 games behind the struggling Spurs and they have every chance to jump them. There week saw them split a home set with the Warriors, narrowly lose in Philadelphia by two points before a come from behind win over the Hornets. 

The momentum from that win in Charlotte should give the Pelicans a boost heading into the final week but with no Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram having a lingering questionable tag over his head, they may struggle to be competitive enough. Playing the Grizzlies, Mavs and Warriors on the road before hosting the Lakers makes it look like their season will be over. 

20. Indiana Pacers

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 31-36
Previous Ranking: 18

A dreadful week from the Pacers at a time that they need wins more than ever. Two losses to the in-form Wizards are not a good sign, given that is the likely 9v10 play-in matchup and then a home loss to the Kings is just not acceptable really. This team seems to have more important issues though with the coach losing control of his players and coaching staff, with multiple alterations throughout the week.

A five game week, with the middle three being against the Sixers, Bucks and Lakers and the other two being on the road, doesn’t look good for Indy. Luckily all they need is two wins to ensure they will play in the postseason, but they may be on the road in a win-or-go-home situation. 

21. San Antonio Spurs

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 32-35
Previous Ranking: 21

The Spurs are playing just as bad as the Pacers, going 1-3 last week. While their three losses were to much better opponents, the Jazz twice and the Blazers, with a team playing for their postseason life, we expected better. San Antonio holds just a 1.5 game lead over the Pelicans and are in serious risk of falling out of the play-in picture all together. 

The Spurs have the toughest remaining week in the entire league, playing the Bucks, then in Brooklyn and New York on back to back nights, before returning home to host the Suns on Saturday and Sunday. They do hold the tiebreaker over New Orleans, so one win might be enough for them to hold on. 

22. Chicago Bulls

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 29-39
Previous Ranking: 25

A 3-1 week, including wins over Charlotte and Boston, has kept the Bulls’ slim postseason chances alive. Zach LaVine returned to the lineup and his inclusion has resulted in Chicago winning three straight games. They are now 2.5 games behind the Pacers and need results to go their way to be able to sneak into 10th in the East.

The issue for the Bulls is they play the Bucks once and Nets twice in their remaining four games and you’d expect them to lose at least two, and probably all three of those. It is a disappointing way for their season to end, but if they were serious about competing this season then they wouldn’t let themselves get in this position in the first place. 

23. Sacramento Kings

NBA Championship Odds: Off The Board
Current Record: 30-38
Previous Ranking: 24

Despite playing without both De’Aaron Fox and rookie sensation Tyrese Halliburton, the Kings had one of their best weeks in the second half of the season, going 3-1. Admittedly, they did play the Thunder twice, but picking up a win in Indiana is very impressive for this side. 

They aren’t mathematically eliminated from the postseason but they may as well be, sitting 2.5 games back from the Spurs with four games remaining. Is a perfect week really out of the question? They do play the Thunder again but have the Grizzlies on the road twice and the Jazz, so yes, it is out of the question.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Championship Odds: Off The Board
Current Record: 21-47
Previous Ranking: 23

The Timberwolves fell to the Grizzlies and Heat but managed to overcome the Magic to close out the week, but we know that wins aren’t important right now. Minnesota is part of a three-way tie for the fourth worst record in the league, but they will want to lose a few more games to help their lottery chances. 

Their first round pick goes to the Warriors if it falls out of the top three, so every loss matters for the team right now. The one bright spot for Minnesota is that since April 1st, they own the highest scoring trio in the league. Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards have been lights out on offense and are showing that the future is bright for this bunch.

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25. Toronto Raptors

NBA Championship Odds: +25000
Current Record: 27-41
Previous Ranking: 22

One of just four teams to have a winless week. The other three were Houston, Cleveland and Oklahoma City. That is how bad the Raptors are going right now. They are just one loss or an Indiana win away from being eliminated from play-in contention and then the question is what they do with Kyle Lowry’s free agency and the future of the franchise. 

26. Detroit Pistons

NBA Championship Odds: Off The Board
Current Record: 20-49
Previous Ranking: 27

The Pistons have jumped the Magic to 26 in the rankings, despite losing to them to start the week, thanks to an impressive win over the play-in bound Grizzlies. Both sides went 1-3 this week but Detroit’s win was more impressive. 

While they may have whiffed on their lottery pick, drafting Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart have been incredible first round selections in their rookie season and along with the signing of Jerami Grant, show that the Pistons could be competitive in years to come.

27. Orlando Magic

NBA Championship Odds: Off The Board
Current Record: 21-47
Previous Ranking: 26

A 1-3 week by the magic with their win being over the struggling Pistons. Cole Anthony continues to impress with the ball in his hands and the Magic are just waiting for next season now. With Markelle Fultz and Jonathon Isaac on the sidelines and looking to come back fully healthy for 2021-22, the Magic is only worried about the future.

28. Houston Rockets

NBA Championship Odds: Off The Board
Current Record: 16-52
Previous Ranking: 28

Houston had an extremely tough week last week, playing the three form teams in the league. Hosting the Sixers before playing in Milwaukee and Utah saw three losses, but those teams are on eight, five and five game winning streaks respectively. In saying that, Houston will finish the year with the worst record, a damning reality check for a team that started the season with James Harden on the roster.

29. Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Championship Odds: Off The Board
Current Record: 21-47
Previous Ranking: 29

The Cavs were seriously close to dropping to last in our NBA Power Rankings. They went 0-4 and lost by an average of 24.75 points last week. They have now lost 10 straight games, the longest active streak in the league, and don’t look like winning any time soon.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder

NBA Championship Odds: Off The Board
Current Record: 21-48
Previous Ranking: 30

The Thunder remain glued to the bottom, losing all four games last week by an average of 23 points per game. OKC have perfected tanking this season, resting healthy players to play their kids and then when those kids start playing too good, resting them too. 

*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.