Not much can stop Utah Jazz at this point. The NBA’s top players have won 18 of their last 19 tough games and take on Eastern Conference leaders, the Philadelphia 76ers, on Monday.
Speaking of the East, the Boston Celtics continue to drop, both in the standings and on our list. With weeks 1-3 – and seven losses in their last ten games – Boston drops to .500 and is fifth in the Conference.
What is the status of the 30 teams right now? Let’s dive into our Week 9 standings.
Note: During the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim McMahon, Dave McMenamin, Eric Woodyard, Royce Young and Om Youngmisuk) evaluates the 30 teams from top to bottom to determine which teams are currently playing their best basketball and which are most likely to claim the title.
Wrong: the movie is not specified.ESPN
Previous rankings: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6, week 7, week 8.
1. utah Jazz2020-21
: 22-5 Previous
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Jazz won 16 games by double digits during their 18-1 run. That makes them the only team, outside of the Bucks (1970-71) and the Cavaliers (2008-09), to record that many wins by more than 10 points in 19 games. An underrated part of Utah’s success is forward Royce O’Neal, who was the key defensive back for Jason Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler in the Jazz’s three convincing victories this week. “This is a pure defensive team. This is where it should be at the end of the season if it keeps going like this,” said Rudy Gobert, two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. — McMahon
This week: PHI, @LAC
2. Los Angeles Lakers2020-21
record: 21-7 Previous
The Lakers’ seven-game winning streak began to falter a bit, as it took three consecutive wins in overtime (one against Detroit, two against Oklahoma City) and then 20 points against Memphis to keep it going. Of course, things went wrong in Denver on Sunday. What really matters for this team is what an MRI of Anthony Davis’ strained right Achilles tendon will reveal Monday. — McManaman
This Week: MIN, BKN, MIA
record LA Clippers2020-21: 20-8 Previous
While Patrick Beverley recovered from his injury, Kawhi Leonard was off Sunday with a bruise on his lower left foot. He accompanied Paul George (swollen toe) on the sidelines as they cheered the Clippers to their third win in a row. It remains to be seen when Leonard and George will return. But as the Clippers play the second game in their back-to-back series on Monday (out of five in eight days), they can certainly play with both their All-Stars. Although they are no longer on the team, the Clippers have won 14 of their last 18 games. — Youngmisuk
This Week: MIA, UTA, BREAK ….
record Philadelphia 76ers20-21
Previous note: 4
The era of good feelings is over in the City of Brotherly Love after Philadelphia’s two defeats against the best competition in the Western Conference. It won’t get any easier on Monday, when the Sixers conclude their trip to Utah with the best jazz in the NBA. It is expected to be an epic showdown between Joel Embiid, one of the first MVP candidates this season, and Rudy Gobert, who is on his way to yet another NBA defensive player of the year award. — Good Times
This week: UTA, HOU, CHI, TOR…
5th Phoenix Suns2020-21
The Suns have won nine of their last 10 games and are on a sixth win streak after Sunday’s victory over the Magic. The current streak is the second longest in the last 10 years, following last season’s 8-0 run. Devin Booker has been on a good run in the last four games, averaging 32.3 points on 56.3% of shots. He played three games in a row for the first time this season with at least 30 points and started Sunday’s game by outscoring Orlando (17-16) in the first quarter before finishing with 27 points. — Lopez
This week: BRK, @NOP, @MEM
6th Milwaukee Bucks2020-21
Giannis Antetokounmpo hates losing, but he also looks at the big picture. After Friday’s loss against Utah, he said his goal is to “ultimately play better basketball.” This season, he is no longer focused on having the best record in the league, but on playing better when it counts. “That’s my state of mind,” he told Salt Lake City. “I want to get better with every game.” The Bucks have now lost three games in a row as Jrue Holiday is still not starting due to health and safety protocols in the league. — Woodyard
This week: TOR, TOR, OK, Sack.
7th Brooklyn Nets2020-21
Kevin Durant is back – again – with health and safety protocols, and perhaps now the Nets can begin to establish an identity and carve out a place for themselves among the elite teams in the East. They acquired James Harden when Kyrie Irving went missing and Durant was gone for a week, but the more the trio plays together, the better their chemistry seems to be. Irving has unwittingly shifted the lead roles to Harden now that the roles are defining themselves. It looked like the nets were finally going to get in and… Durant is out at least two games with a mild hamstring strain. OK. — Young
This week, BAG, PHX, LAL, LAKE…
8th Denver Nuggets2020-21
Record: 15-11 Previous
The Nuggets started last week with their third loss in a row against Milwaukee. But Michael Malone put the Nuggets back on track with three wins, including their biggest win of the season against the Lakers. Nikola Jokic continued his MVP campaign, scoring his sixth triple-double of the season Sunday night. Health, however, is a major key for the Nuggets, who were already without Gary Harris before losing Paul Millsap to the Lakers with a sprained left knee. — Jungmisuk
This week: BOS, WASA, CHA, ATL…
9th Portland Trail Blazers2020-21
It was “Lady Time” in Big D. Damian Lillard served up rocket after rocket after rocket to beat the Mavericks on Sunday. Slowly but surely, the Blazers won four in a row and six of their last seven to move into the top six in the West. With all the wear and tear the Blazers have faced this season – injuries to Yusuf Nurkic, C.J. McCollum and Zach Collins – finishing in the first half of the West is quite an accomplishment. And that begs the question: as fourth in the championship for points, ninth for assists and perhaps first for points in the lead, shouldn’t Dahm already be in the MVP conversation? — Youth
This week: OK, NO, WHAT?
10th San Antonio Spurs2020-21
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With the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge with a hip injury, San Antonio has found a new starting lineup that is paying off. The Spurs improved their mark this season to 4-0 with Derrick White, DeJounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Jacob Poeltl. This group has played five minutes for the Spurs this season and has a net score of plus-18.4. By comparison, the most-used Spurs team this season — Aldridge replaced by Poeltl and Lonnie Walker IV replaced by White — has a net minus-12.5 in 216 minutes. — Lopez
This week: SET, OOM, NYK…
11th Indiana Pacers2020-21
Record: 14-13 Previous
After four consecutive defeats, Indiana returned with two away victories over Detroit and Atlanta on Thursday and Sunday. In his last 10 games, Domantas Sabonis is averaging 21.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists, while hitting 52.1 percent from the field. — Woodyard
This Week: CHI, MIN, HOU
12th Boston Celtics2020-21
Record: 13-13 Previous
Things are not looking good in Boston, as the Celtics have lost four of their last five games – including a home loss against Detroit on Friday and a loss against Washington on Sunday. Those two games underscored the problems Boston has faced this season, which has led to an offense that has outstripped its stars. Players not named Jason Tatum, Jalen Brown or Kemba Walker shot 25-for-76 (32.9 percent) and 7-for-36 (19.4 percent) in those two losses, and the question of whether Boston will strengthen its bench before next month’s deadline was debated again. — Good Times
This week: DEN, ATL, ATL, @NOP
13th Golden State Warriors2020-21
Kevin Durant shared a few hugs and handshakes with his former teammates and coaches during a joyous reunion in the San Francisco Bay Area – especially for the victorious Nets. A split with the Spurs and a win against an injured Magic team put the Warriors back on track with a 2-2 record for the week. The good news for the Warriors is that, aside from Saturday’s clunker, Stephen Curry is still playing some of the best basketball of his career. — Friedell
This week: CLE, MIA, @ORL, @CHA
14th Dallas Mavericks2020-21
Record: 13-15 Previous
Luka Doncic scored 90 points over the weekend, the most points in Mavs history in two games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only players younger than Doncic to have played two consecutive 40-point games are LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Allen Iverson. Doncic is averaging 34.3 points on a hitting percentage of .503/.444/.849 and 9.6 assists, while the Mavs have won five of their last seven games. But it’s a big problem: Dallas has allowed 125.4 points on 100 possessions in that time. — McMahon
This week: DET, @HOU
15th New York Knicks2020-21
Record: 13-15 Previous
Quietly, the Knicks continue to win. With wins over the Wizards and the Rockets this weekend, the Knicks move up to seventh in the Eastern Conference and the young players continue to enjoy some minutes under coach Tom Thibodeau. The loss of Mitchell Robinson, who broke his right hand Friday against Washington and will be out for several weeks, is obviously a sore point, but it could also open the door for rookie Obi Topping to expand his role from the bench. — Good Time
This week: ATL, @ORL, SAS, MIN
16th Charlotte Hornets2020-21
Record: 13-15 Previous
LaMelo’s ball is quickly becoming one of the most interesting stories in the league. The rookie goalie has had another big week, averaging 19.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists in his last four games. Terry Rozier scored 41 points in Friday’s win over the Timberwolves. The Hornets, like many teams in the league, are always looking for more consistency, but their offense — led by Rozier, Ball and veteran Gordon Hayward — seems to be taking shape. — Friedell.
This Week: CHI, DEN, GSW
17th Toronto Raptors2020-21
Record: 12-15 Previous
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Every time it seems like the Raptors are ready to take a step forward, they take at least one step back. Sunday night’s home loss against the Timberwolves, who were playing without D’Angelo Russell, is another reason. It’s obviously been a strange season for the Raptors, given that they’ve been played away all season, but at some point the old version of this team has to show up regularly, right? Good times.
This week: MIL, MIL, MIN, PHI…
18th Sacramento Kings2020-21
After losing in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia – a disappointing but understandable result against one of the best teams in the league – the Kings lost twice to Orlando and Memphis to finish the week 0-3. But Tyrese Haliburton was good, even in the loss. So don’t worry, Kings fans. Not all is lost. McManaman.
This week: BRK, MIA, @CHI, @MIL
19th Miami Heat2020-21
Miami is finally starting to get out of the hole that injuries and the 19-minute COVID caused earlier this season. The Heat have won four of their last five games, including Thursday’s game against the Rockets in which Jimmy Butler scored a triple-double. They still have five games to go in a long run on the West Coast, but the defense that defined some of their best moments last season seems to be recovering. Since the Hornets scored 129 points in overtime on Feb. 1, the Heat have scored just 100.5 points per game in the last six contests. — Friedell
This week: MORE, GSW, ZAK, LAL…
20th Memphis Grizzlies2020-21
Record: 11-11 Previous
The great Jonas Valanciunas returned in a big way after an absence of several weeks due to health and safety protocols. Since returning, he has averaged 21.8 points and 12.6 rebounds in five games while hitting 68.3% from the field. Playmaker Ja Morant has given Valanciunas 12 baskets in those five games and hit three consecutive double-doubles for the first time in his career. — McMahon
This Week: NOP, OKC, DET, PHX
21st Atlanta Hawks2020-21
The Hawks have been hitting hard in Free Agency this summer, but injuries have prevented these players from helping the cause: Danilo Gallinari (14 games, 40.8% shooting), Rajon Rondo (14 games, 3.4 points, 3.9 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 34.5% shooting), Bogdan Bogdanovic (9 games, 9.9 points, 38.5% and hasn’t played since January 9) and Chris Dunn (hasn’t played this season due to an ankle injury) haven’t had the impact Atlanta expected when they came on board in the offseason. — Lopez
This week: NIK, BOS, DEN
22nd New Orleans Pelican2020-21
record: 11-15 previous
After a four-game winning streak, the Pelicans seemed to be on the right track, as the defense took a step back after its last three losses. New Orleans had to allow 25 points against Chicago, 25 against Dallas and 17 against Detroit. According to a study by ESPN Stats & Information, 67 points were allowed during this period, the most three-game games in NBA history. The Pelicans now rank 29th in the championship in terms of defense — and in the last three games, that statistic is astounding: 136.7 . — Lopez
This week: @MEM, POR, PHX, FOREST
23rd Houston Rockets2020-21
record: 11-15 previous
After seven wins in eight games, the Rockets have now lost five consecutive games, with Christian Wood dropping out with a sprained right ankle. Houston averaged just 98.8 points during this period, including three defeats by more than 20 points. “Right now we’re at our lowest level of the season. You can only go up,” said DeMarcus Cousins. — McMahon
This week: WHAT, PHI, DAL, IND?
24th Oklahoma City Thunder2020-21
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander probably won’t attract much attention from the All-Stars, but his season is certainly decent. He averaged 22.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists while hitting 50.6% from the field and 38.2% from 3’s. Similarly, three other players have scored at least 22 points per game on 50% shooting in their third season in the last 20 years : Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis. And in case you were wondering, all three were selected to the All-Star Game this season. — Youth
This week: POR, @MEM, @MIL, @KEY
25th Chicago Bulls2020-21
Although the Bulls hit a double-double this week, Zach LaVine continues to consolidate his All-Star position. LaVine scored 46 points and did nine better than expected in Wednesday’s 129-116 victory over New Orleans. In the same game, LaVine and teammate Kobe White (eight three-pointers) became the first duo in NBA history to score at least eight three-pointers in one game, according to a study by ESPN Stats & Information. — Woodyard
This week: #IND, CHA,PHI, BAG #
26th Orlando Magic20-21
Steve Clifford’s team is struggling with several injury problems, as evidenced by the fact that they had only eight healthy players in Sunday night’s loss against the Suns. The only good news came Friday night when Nikola Vucevic scored 42 points in a surprising victory over the Kings. The Magic may need a fresh start during the All-Star break more than any other team in the league during the 10-18 season” — Friedell
This Week: NYK, GSW, DET
27th Cleveland Cavaliers2020-21
Record: 10-18 Previous
The Cavs are in free fall after a week of going 0-4 and have made just 1-9 in their last 10 games. The Nadirs lost 133-95 in Denver when they took a 34-17 lead in the first quarter after using two crosses in Andre Drummond and Jarrett Allen. Monday they play against Golden State, which reminds us how tough it is after four consecutive finals not too long ago. — McMenamin
This week: @GSW, SAS, OKC
28th edition of Detroit Pistons2020-21
Record: 8-19 Previous
The Pistons may have the second-best record in the East, but they are certainly competitive. Last Saturday they lost to the defending champion Lakers in a double overtime thriller, and Detroit picked up where it left off this week with big wins over Brooklyn, Boston and New Orleans. Rookie forward Saddique Bay led Boston to victory with a 30-point lead, while Mason Plumlee completed his first career triple-double to win for Detroit on Sunday. — Woodyard
This week: SAS, @DAL, @MEM, @ORL
29th Washington Wizards20-21
Record: 7-17 Previous
The Wizards have won four of their last nine games after a dismal start (3-12) that included a team COWID-19 explosion. That’s a start! And Sunday’s win over Boston was the first time the Wizards, without defensive compromise, have held a 100-point lead all season. But with 48 games to go, the Wizards need to find more consistency and a better D to have a chance in the East. — Jungmisuk
This week: HOU, DEN, @POR
30 Minnesota Timberwolves2020-21
Record: 7-20 Previous
Karl-Anthony Towns returned from a tough battle at KOVID-19 and helped end a four-game losing streak for the Wolves with a strong win over the Raptors on Sunday. But it was such a tumultuous season for Minnesota that a few games were lost. After trading D’Angelo Russell last season, they only saw one pairing with KAT. It was a plus this season to help the partnership grow. But with Russell suffering from sore legs for a week, they’ve only played four games together this season in which the Wolves are 2-2. — Young
This week: LAL, IND, TOR, @NYK