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  • There isn't much separating Cleveland, Boston and Golden State these days—but the Celtics' recent defensive struggles led to a slight tumble in this week's NBA Power Rankings.
By Kenny Ducey
December 18, 2017

Welcome back to the still-not-canceled series, The Crossover’s weekly NBA Power Rankings! There’s an addition to the core of elite teams this week, and a shakeup within it. The Celtics have lost a bit of their shine, LeBron and the Cavs look unstoppable and the Warriors are surviving without Steph Curry. The NBA's top tier has expanded to seven, and may soon expand to eight if the Walking Bucket Michael Beasley keeps this up…

Without further ado, let’s get to it. 

(All stats and records through Dec. 27)


Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

30. Atlanta Hawks (6–23)
Last Week: 27

Dennis Schröder​ sat for the last eight minutes of the Hawks’ loss to the Knicks on Sunday, then didn’t see action in the fourth quarter against Cleveland. I’m not really sure what’s going on behind closed doors here, but the last thing the Hawks need is for Schröder​ to be unhappy. 

29. Phoenix Suns (10–21)
Last Week: 29

Very glad the Suns brought this guy back into the NBA.

28. Dallas Mavericks (8–22)
Last Week: 28

The only person who can stop the Spurs is... J.J. Barea?

27. Memphis Grizzlies (9–21)
Last Week: 26

I know Chris Wallace has to say “the season isn’t lost” but...this season is totally lost. Although, getting a nice return for Marc Gasol could be a silver lining.

26. Chicago Bulls (8–20)
Last Week: 30

The Bulls’ tank was humming right along before this devastating winning streak.

25. Orlando Magic (11–20)
Last Week: 23

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for this for SO LONG. It was everything I imagined it would be. 

24. Sacramento Kings (8–18)
Last Week: 25

Okay, now I’m almost SOLD that Vivek was actually right about Buddy Hield. He’s leading the league in three-point shooting at 47.5%. That’s...that’s nine points higher than Steph Curry.

23. Los Angeles Lakers (10–17)
Last Week: 21

The week could have gone better (back-to-back losses to the Knicks and Cavs). At least we got this insane alley-oop and camera stare from Lonzo.

@zo gets UP at The Garden!

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22. Brooklyn Nets (11–18)
Last Week: 19

The fact that Jahlil Okafor can’t even play for the Nets right now—over what Kenny Atkinson is calling a conditioning issue—makes me slightly less excited about this trade.

21. Charlotte Hornets (10–19)
Last Week: 24

Charlotte has now lost an insane 13 straight games decided by three or fewer points. Kemba Walker needs to be better in the fourth quarter, and perhaps that would allow the Hornets to be as good as they should be.

20. Utah Jazz (14–16)
Last Week: 18

Well, if LeBron says Donovan Mitchell is the Young King, then he’s the Young King. It’s settled.

19. L.A. Clippers (11–17)
Last Week: 22

You’re looking at the league’s best defense (93.8 defensive rating) over the past week! And the worst offense (94.7). I’m not really sure how to feel about them at the moment.

18. Denver Nuggets (16–13)
Last Week: 20

I think the best thing I saw all week was Richard Jefferson killing 19-year-old Malik Beasley for needing to ice his knees after playing 28 minutes.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (15–15)
Last Week: 17

All of the sudden, this team can really shoot the basketball—ranking sixth in three-point percentage—and that’s with a pretty poor shooting season from Jrue Holiday. Keep feeding Darius Miller and E’Twaun Moore!

16. Philadelphia 76ers (14–14)
Last Week: 15

Well, this kind of puts into perspective where the Sixers are at right now. Not even Joel Embiid’s trolling bouts are proving to be successful.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (15–13)
Last Week: 9

Jason Kidd is the leading candidate to shoulder all the blame for this season potentially going horribly awry for the young Bucks.

14. Miami Heat (15–14)
Last Week: 14

I’m as encouraged about Josh Richardson as I am discouraged about the news of James Johnson’s injury. Not sure how many more injuries this team can take before hope starts to fade.

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (14–15)
Last Week: 12

Of all players who average 15 shot attempts, Russell Westbrook (38.8%), Carmelo Anthony (40.4%) and Paul George (40.9%) have the three worst field–goal percentages.

12. Washington Wizards (16–14)
Last Week: 11

Outrageous coats, pushups to show up an opponent...I’m starting to really dig Kelly Oubre.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (17–13)
Last Week: 7

Blowing a 15-point lead to the Suns should result in forfeiture of a future draft choice. How does that happen!?

10. Indiana Pacers (17–13)
Last Week: 8

Okay, so they came crashing back down to Earth with back-to-back losses. That was inevitable. But! In a week where the Pacers faced two of the league’s better offenses, they posted one of the week’s better defensive ratings at 104.1. As long as Indiana continues to handle its business on that end, Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner don’t look to be slowing down their bucket-getting ways anytime soon.

9. Portland Trail Blazers (16–13)
Last Week: 13

Creeping ever-so-closely to the league’s elite tier, the Blazers are getting it done with consistent performances from CJ McCollum and gritty defensive performances late in games. Is it weird to admit it’s kind of fun watching Ed Davis?

8. New York Knicks (16–13)
Last Week: 16

Just when the Knicks looked like they miiight be slowing down just a bit, reeling from injuries to Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis, a new hero emerged.

7. Detroit Pistons (17–13)
Last Week: 10

Low key, Langston Galloway and Anthony Tolliver are impact role players on a good team. This guy’s trying to become one now, too:

6. San Antonio Spurs (20–10)
Last Week: 4

Why are we still surprised Manu can deliver incredible moments at 40?​

5. Toronto Raptors (20–8)
Last Week: 6

The only thing concerning me at this point about Toronto is its bench—how much offense will they be able to pull out of Fred VanVleet, Norm Powell and Delon Wright?

4. Boston Celtics (25–7)
Last Week: 1

The difference between Boston, Golden State and Cleveland is marginal at the moment, but it’s hard to argue the fact that the Celtics just haven’t been the same dominant force over the past couple weeks. Boston’s elite defensive numbers have slipped; this week they ranked third-to-last allowing 112.7 points per 100 possessions. 

3. Golden State Warriors (23–6)
Last Week: 3

Is Kevin Durant winning some folks over now?

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (23–8)
Last Week: 5

“Kyle” has a last name, and also has a Twitter handle! Never thought I’d see the day Kevin Love wasn’t the one being left out.

1. Houston Rockets (24–4)
Last Week: 2

Houston ran out to a 24-point lead against San Antonio this week, and did it with only two buckets from James Harden. That’s a good reminder of just how deep this team is.

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