Let us bow our heads, and take a moment to reflect......on the fact that this means there is a team that actually ranks below the Knicks!

There's a change at the top end of town, too.

Throughout the season, Inside Sport will be bringing you our NBA Power Rankings. These are not necessarily ranking based on records. This is a purely subjective assessment of how a team is progressing, projected and playing.

All records are as of Thursday night Australian time.

30. Golden State (Down 1)

(3-13 Record) Last week: 1-3

What goes up, must come down. For the best part of a decade, the Warriors have either been top of the pile, or an ascending media darling. Now, there here: 30th in our rankings. While all good things must come to an end, not a soul expected this sort of perfect storm. Golden State will be a good side again once Curry, Green and Russell return, but the playoffs are out of the picture.


29. New York Knicks (Up 1)

(4-11) Last week: 2-2

Ladies and Gentlemen.....the NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS!

Future Former Knicks coach David Fizdale continues to tinker with his lineups. The recent move of energetic big Mitchell Robinson to the 2nd unit seems to have revitalised the bench.

If only they could play Dallas every game. The Garden was rocking like the days of Pat Riley's 90's teams for the Mavs visit last week.


28. Cleveland Cavaliers (Down 5)

(4-10) Last week: 0-4

A rough week for the Cavs, as they move into the sort of territory that most expected them to inhabit preseason. Record aside, the Cavs are doing a lot of things right. Their porous defense from the previous season (last in the NBA) is squarely mid table. The Cavs are denying the 3 point shot (7th in attempted 3's allowed), free throws (13.7 opponent attempts is league leading) and are controlling their defensive glass behind the veteran Love/Thompson pairing.


27. Chicago Bulls (Down 1)

(5-10) Last week: 1-3

Lauri Markkanen's shooting struggles are concerning. Currently shooting 29.1% from deep, if the Finn isn't raining fire from beyond the arc, what's his role? He's the prototypical stretch big, but doesn't have much of a post game, isn't a great play maker and struggles defensively. The recent news that he's battling a sore oblique explains some of that away, but if he were that bad would the team be better to rest him rather than play hurt? A 5-10, it's not like a playoff berth is at stake.

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26. Memphis Grizzlies (Up 2)

(5-9) Last week: 1-2

The Grizz continue to struggle, but they're a young team taking their punches. Their young core of Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr and Brandon Clarke are no older than 23. Even the veterans like Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson are relatively young at 27 and 26 respectively. And they're talented! Have you ever seen a finish at the rim like this?


25. Detroit Pistons (Down 4)

(5-10) Last week: 1-2

Blake Griffin has looked decent, if rusty, since returning from injury. Once the jumper finds rhythm, he'll be back to normal. Andre Drummond continues to post impressive counting stats. None of that matters. Why? The Pistons can't stop anyone. Currently 25th in Defensive Rating (per Basketball Reference), it's only a slow game pace keeping scores close.


24. Atlanta Hawks (Down 5)

(4-10) Last week: 0-4

A tough stretch for Atlanta. There's no shame is losing to quality sides in Milwaukee and Phoenix, but getting blown out by the Lakers and Clippers (to the tune of 49 points) is disheartening. This team is all Trae Young, all the time. The Hawks have built a reasonable amount of wing and big man depth, but they have noting behind their your star. Adding a veteran backup should be a priority.


23. Washington Wizards (Up 2)

(4-9) Last week: 2-2

Like a skipping record: the Wiz are fantastic to watch, but are horrible defensively.

Their most common line up of Isaiah Thomas, Bradley Beal, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are have a defensive rating of 121.9. That's atrocious. Swap Brown for Davis Bertans, their best offensive 5 by some way, and that defensive rating balloon's to 145.5, per NBA.com.


22. Charlotte Hornets (Up 2)

(6-9) Last week: 2-2

Charlotte keep hanging around, currently a half game out of the final playoff spot in the East.

The team's move towards young talent and away from the overpriced vets is paying off, both in improved performance, but also giving some long overdue hope to the loyal Charlotte fans that have put up with some turgid basketball in recent years.


21. New Orleans Pelicans (Up 6)

(5-9) Last week: 3-1

Is it possible to draft #1, then draft his insurance at #8 in the same draft? The Pels may just have done that in Jaxson Hayes. He's only playing 17 minutes a night, but his per 36 numbers are strong: 16.5 pts, 8.6 boards, 1.7 steals and 2.3 blocks. It's unclear how the uber athletic big big fit with Zion Williamson, but the Pels might just have another starting centre in the making.

20. San Antonio Spurs (Down 4)

(5-10) Last week: 0-4

Losers of 7 straight, this should be the season that the Spurs finally fall out of the playoffs (cue Spurs White Walkers - they will not be killed!). The team should be exploring the trade market for vets LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, although it's unclear what they would get. If a desperate team throws a 1st rounder at them for wither player, the Spurs should bite their hands off.


19. Oklahoma City Thunder (Down 2)

(5-9) Last week: 1-2

The stylistic change from the foot-to-the-floor Westbrook/George Thunder, to this deliberately paced CP3 and SGA led squad is taking some getting used to. The Thunder used to pound you on the offensive glass, gamble on defense and ram the ball down your throat. This side is so much more serene. It's slightly jarring. That being said, the Thunder and playing solid basketball, that belies their poor record.


18. Orlando Magic (Up 4)

(6-8) Last week: 2-1

Nikola Vucevic finally broke out on Monday (Australian time) against the Wizards 'defense' with 30 points and 17 rebounds. The Magic need him to maintain something close to that form to get back into the playoff picture. Sadly, both he and Aaron Gordon went down with ankle sprains in yesterdays match up with Toronto. There's no word on the severity of either injury as yet.


17. Brooklyn Nets (Up 3)

(6-8) Last week: 2-2

The Nets rode out a touch 5 game road trip, beset with injuries to Kyrie Irving and the snake-bit Caris LeVert. Spencer Dinwiddie broke out in LeVert's stead averaging 24 points and 6.7 assist in his last 3 outings. DeAndre Jordan's minutes continue to fluctuate. He's putting up nice counting stats, but when you watch him you can see that he's lost a step.


16. Portland Trailblazers (Down 1)

(5-10) Last week: 1-2

The Blazers had to do something, didn't they? A terrible start to the season, despite some astonishing Damian Lillard performances, means that GM Neil Olshey had to act. Will Carmelo Anthony be a difference maker? It's unlikely, given his age and recent flame outs. Given the frontcourt situation (Collins injured, Aminu/Harkless not replaced, too much Hezonja) gambling on a 10 time All Star seems a worthwhile bet.


15. Sacramento Kings (Up 3)

(6-7) Last week: 2-1

The Kings resurgence continues, despite injuries to key players and Coach Walton slowing the leagues preeminent running side to a crawl. As expected, Bogdan Bogdanovic has stepped into fill the Fox shaped hole at the point, averaging over 10 points and 8 assists in his last 6 appearances. The Kings made a statement against the league leading Celtics, snapping Boston's 10 game winning streak with a huge defensive stand at the death.

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14. Phoenix Suns (Steady)

(7-6) Last week: 1-2

The Suns continue to confound. The expected bottom feeders of the Western Conference are keeping their heads above .500. For all the talk of Booker and Baynes launching from deep, Coach Monty Williams has his team doing it on defense. The Suns are top 5 in opponents offensive boards and deep attempts allowed. They're forcing bad shots and cleaning up when that shot misses. An Old School recipe for solid defensive basketball, if I've ever seen one.


13. Indiana Pacers (Down 1)

(8-6) Last week: 1-2

Coach Nate McMillan has his Pacers running some beautiful sets, but despite that they're only 16th in Offensive Rating. There is a direct correlation between creativity and a lack of scoring punch on this roster. With Malcolm Brogdan injured, too much is falling to Domantas Sabonis. Victor Oladipo can't make his long awaited return soon enough. To that end, he's been sent to the G-League to continue his rehab, so hopefully he's back on an NBA floor soon.


12. Minnesota Timberwolves (Down 1)

(8-7) Last week: 1-3

The Wolves fell back to Earth a touch this week. That can largely be attributed to Andrew Wiggins absence for a family funeral. The former #1 pick had been on a tear before taking leave, averaging 31 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 2.6 stocks (steals/blocks) in the games prior. He returned yesterday in the loss to Utah – not the best team to make a smooth return against.


11. Dallas Mavericks (Up 2)

(9-5) Last week: 3-1

Luka Doncic continues to steal the headlines, including another triple double in the 48 point evisceration of Golden State, in which the Slovenian racked up 22 points, 5 boards and 5 assists in the 1st quarter! Kristaps Porzingis continues to make strides in his comeback season, racking up 4 straight double/doubles.

10. Utah Jazz (Down 3)

(9-5) Last week: 1-2

The Jazz continue to play well, but can't quite put it all together. Joe Ingles has struggled mightily, returning to the 6th man role this season. His numbers are down across the board, but the woeful 34% shooting is most concerning. Perhaps he's just best suited as a secondary option with the starters instead of leading the bench unit? With backup centre Ed Davis injured, Rudy Gobert has gone on a tear, averaging around 19 points, 16 boards and 3 blocks in his last five outings.


9. Philadelphia 76ers (Down 1)

(9-5) Last week: 2-1

A win in Cleveland broke a 5 game losing streak on the road. For a team with #1 seed aspirations, that has to improve. On the positive, the Sixers finally have their starting unit back together after injury and suspension enforced absences. Oh, by the way, Ben Simmons hit a 3!

8. Toronto Raptors (Down 2)

(10-4) Last week: 2-1

The Raptors continue to ride out the absence of Kyle Lowry through the strong play of Fred Vanvleet (averaging about 21 points, 8 assists and 3 steals since Lowry's injury) and Norman Powell (14 points, 4 boards on 36.7% from deep as a starter). In a tight race at the top of the East, the Raps sit 4th, but only a game off 1st place. A showdown with Philly this week is mouthwatering.


7. Miami Heat (Up 3)

(10-3) Last week: 3-0

Is Miami for real? Whilst this side was expected to make the playoffs, sitting a half game off the top of the conference wasn't on the radar. Jimmy Butler has lead by force of personality since his return. Bam Adebayo has rounded out his offensive game, and continues to make strides at the other end. Perhaps the most positive point for Heat fans? According to Tankathon, the Heat have played the 2nd toughest schedule in the NBA so far. They still have yet to face the Knicks or Warriors.


6. Houston Rockets (Up 3)

(11-4) Last week: 3-1

James Harden is unguardable. A bricky start to the season was concerning, but he's put that to bed. Since the the 2nd week of November Harden has averaged over 40 points per game. His step back is as lethal as ever and the floater game is vastly improved. He's seen just about every defense – gimmick or otherwise – and it hasn't fazed him. The man is the single best offensive player we've seen since peak Jordan.


5. Denver Nuggets (Steady)

(10-3) Last week: 3-0

Nikola Jokic continues to look sluggish and his numbers are down across the board. Yet the Nuggets keep winning. How? A number of ways. It could be a total defensive effort led by Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant, it could be Jamal Murray tearing up the Grizz with 39 points, 8 assists, 3 steals and 7 three's. This team is deep and versatile. If the Joker gets back on track, look out.


4. Los Angeles Clippers (Steady)

(10-5) Last week: 3-1

Yesterday, we finally got to see the Clippers, fully operational. The result? Taking down the previously league leading Celtics. Kawhi was rusty after missing 3 games, and Paul George has still only played 4 games this season, not that you'd know it. PG has come back with the loudest of bangs, laying down 28.3 points, 6.3 boards and 4.8 assists per game so far. Let's check back in a week, and see if Doc Rivers can get his muscle car finely tuned.


3. Boston Celtics (Down 2)

(11-3) Last week: 2-2

No Hayward? No problem? Not quite. The Celtics 10 game winning streak was ended in a heartbreaking loss to the Kings. They also lost the Clips in OT. Whilst it's great that the Celtics were in both road games, a closer like Hayward might have (against the Kings especially) been able to put them over the top. In the race to the top of the East, the margins are that fine.


2. Milwaukee Bucks (Up 1)

(11-3) Last week: 4-0

The loss of ace sidekick and secondary scorer/play maker Khris Middleton seems to have galvanised the Bucks. Of course, there's a really simple reason that they've flourished without the All Star: Giannis. The Greek Freak has the ball ALL the time, with Middleton out. And that's a problem for opposition defences. The numbers are preposterous: 30.5 points, 13.8 boards, 6 assists, 2.9 stocks and a career high 1.4 3's per outing with an incredible 33.1 PER. Back to back MVP's is clearly in play for Giannis.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (Up 1)

(12-2) Last week: 3-0

Boston's loss to the Kings handed the Lakers the NBA's best record and the #1 spot in our Power Rankings. They're doing it despite some ghastly shooting from deep (34.2% on 29.6 attempts – both below average at best) and ranking 26th in free throw attempts. LeBron and AD are monsters inside, which is rendering the lack of outside pop irrelevant right now. The defense is superb. If LA can improve it's shot profile a touch, 65 wins might be there for the taking.

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