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NBA Power Rankings: Warriors maintain top spot as Suns rise originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Six weeks into the NBA season, the injuries and absences of star players continue to hamper some of the expected title contenders. Nevertheless, some teams have been able to rise above the adversity. The Warriors are getting closer and closer to the highly anticipated return of Klay Thompson, and are winning games in dominant fashion as the star guard finishes his Achilles rehab. So where do they land in this week's power rankings in comparison to the scorching hot Phoenix Suns?
Here's where everything stands after six weeks: 30. Orlando Magic (4-17): The Magic have lost six in a row, and are near the bottom of the league standings as expected. Jalen Suggs, the lottery pick from Gonzaga, has struggled considerably shooting the ball. He is shooting just 33.6 percent from the field and 24.8 percent from deep. 29. Detroit Pistons (4-16): After dropping six games in a row, the Pistons are in a similar situation to the Magic. No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, like Suggs, has been missing his shots from just about everywhere on the court, shooting 33.2 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from long-range. 28. Houston Rockets (3-17): Two strong wins in a row for the Rockets have given them a chance to rise from the Power Rankings cellar. Veteran guard Eric Gordon finally is feeling healthy and has revived his career a bit, shooting over 43 percent from 3-point range. 27. New Orleans Pelicans (5-17): The Pels shocked the NBA world by beating the Jazz in Utah, but then preceded to get blown out by the Jazz in a rare road-and-road, back-to-back matchup. Zion Williamson being cleared for basketball activities is positive news, but how soon he will return to game action is unknown. 26. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-13): The Thunder have scored the fewest points per game at 99 per contest, as their offense pretty much relies on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to carry the load each and every night. The rising star is putting up over 20 points per game, but unless he gets more help around him, it will be a long season for the Thunder offense. 25. San Antonio Spurs (5-13): Dejounte Murray is posting big numbers for the struggling Spurs, scoring nearly 19 points per game to go with over eight rebounds and eight assists. Should the Spurs continue to falter, Murray could be a valuable trade piece at the deadline. 24. Sacramento Kings (8-12): After multiple embarrassing losses, the Kings fired head coach Luke Walton and now are trying to find an identity. At this point, the Sacramento front office must know the makeup of their roster is not a playoff contender, and it would be shocking if they did not look to trade Buddy Hield or any other of their players not named De'Aaron Fox or Tyrese Halliburton. 23. Denver Nuggets (9-10): The Nuggets are in dire straits, mostly due to significant injuries. Star point guard Jamal Murray has been out for the entire year, Michael Porter Jr. now might miss the season, P.J. Dozier is out for the year after tearing his ACL and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has been banged up. 22. Indiana Pacers (9-13): It is hard to fully explain why the Pacers have struggled this season, as their roster has quite a few talented players. Unfortunately for Indiana, the Eastern Conference looks strong this season so the Pacers can't take too long to put things together. 21. Toronto Raptors (9-12): Like the Pacers, the Raptors are another team that has talented pieces, but have not found any rhythm. They are long and athletic, with the opportunity to be one of the better defensive teams due to their versatility. Yet they have not found any semblance of consistency and remain a pretty mediocre team. 20. Memphis Grizzlies (9-10): Everyone breathed a giant sigh of relief when Ja Morant's knee injury was diagnosed as a sprain instead of anything worse. However, even before his injury, the Grizz have been struggling of late and their hot start to the year seems like a distant memory. 19. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-10): The Cavs sorely missed rookie Evan Mobley, who has been a defensive beast so far in his young career. Mobley missed four games with a sprained elbow but returned Saturday to help the Cavs beat the lowly Magic. However, it is hard to see them surviving in the playoff race much longer if the injuries continue to mount. 18. Minnesota Timberwolves (10-10): Not many teams have been hotter than the T-Wolves, winners of seven of their last 10. Star center Karl-Anthony Towns has been fantastic this season, scoring over 23 points per game and shooting nearly 45 percent from deep. 17. Los Angeles Lakers (11-11): The Lakers are the talk of the NBA, and it is not for the best reasons. Injuries have hampered their season a bit, but more importantly, their lack of chemistry on both ends of the floor and the incredible disappointment of their overestimated bench depth has been eye-opening. The Lakers do not have many options to change their roster due to salary cap constraints, so they will have to get healthy, and creative, to fix their season moving forward. 16. Philadelphia 76ers (10-10): Like many teams in the NBA, the Sixers have been battered by injuries to some key players, including perennial MVP contender Joel Embiid. While the team faltered in his absence, second-year guard Tyrese Maxey has blossomed into a highly-efficient scoring threat and someone who could contribute to their championship hopes. 15. Portland Trail Blazers (10-10): Yes, the Blazers are playing much better after their poor start to the season. However, the upside of this team still is rather limited, and unless they make moves to shore up their interior or wing defense, they will almost assuredly fall short of their ultimate goal yet again. 14. New York Knicks (11-9): Despite the strong numbers, Julius Randle has not been the same impactful beast he was last season. New additions Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker have provided solid outside shooting, but unless Randle becomes dominant again, the Knicks' ceiling can only go so high. 13. Boston Celtics (11-10): The Celtics finally are close to full health with Jaylen Brown returning to the lineup. Veteran center Al Horford has been a pleasant surprise for Boston. Coupled with young forward Grant Williams, the Celtics could have a solid frontcourt alongside their star wings. 12. Los Angeles Clippers (11-9): Paul George has been fantastic through six weeks of the season, keeping the Clippers in the heart of the early Western Conference playoff standings. The big question will be can he maintain this level of play for the whole season with such a high workload and few consistent offensive weapons around him. 11. Atlanta Hawks (11-10): After a surprisingly poor start, the Hawks have found their stride again. Atlanta is simply too deep and talented to hover in mediocrity, and the Hawks likely will end the year near the top of the East if they can maintain their elevated play. Unfortunately, their depth will be tested in the next few weeks with injuries to wings Bogdan Bogdanovich and Cam Reddish. 10: Dallas Mavericks (10-8): With Luka Doncic out of the lineup, the Mavericks struggled as expected. But the good news for Dallas is that oft-injured big man Kristaps Porzingis is starting to play some inspired basketball, averaging over 20 points per game. Barring a big change, Porzingis remains one of the biggest keys to the Mavs providing enough support for Doncic. 9. Charlotte Hornets (13-9): LaMelo Ball and the Hornets were rolling along and putting up a league-best 114.2 points per game until a bad loss in Houston broke their stride. Nevertheless, the Hornets can score the ball, but can they improve their defense which is giving up the third-worst points per game at 114? 8. Chicago Bulls (13-8): In terms of pure entertainment, the Bulls have been top-notch so far this season. High fliers Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are attacking opponents in transition, while DeMar DeRozan has been having a dominant season. Chicago is a deep team, and should be one of the best in the Eastern Conference if it can stay healthy. 7. Washington Wizards (13-7): Washington has been one of the bigger surprises so far this season. After D.C. stalwart Bradley Beal, the next four top scorers for the Wizards are all new additions to the team. They will need all the help they can get in a competitive division that has the Heat, Hornets and Hawks. 6. Utah Jazz (13-7): Two losses at home to a struggling Grizzlies team and the lowly Pelicans have dropped the Jazz to sixth in the rankings. Veteran forward Rudy Gay has come on strong after making his season debut, averaging over 10 points per contest and shooting an unsustainable 64 percent from deep. 5. Miami Heat (13-7): The Heat are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, but their inconsistency on offense has cost them some wins so far this season. Tyler Herro has been a revelation off the bench, averaging nearly 22 points per game and is the early frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year. 4. Milwaukee Bucks (13-8): Do not look now, but the reigning champs are healthy and rolling again. Before all is said and done, the Bucks may very earn the top spot in the East. It may not make a massive impact on the Bucks' fate, but it is good to see DeMarcus Cousins get a crack in the league again, signing a free-agent deal with Milwaukee on Sunday. 3. Brooklyn Nets (14-6): Kevin Durant continues to play at an MVP level, but there is some concern about the lack of consistency from fellow star James Harden. The Nets have not been able to win many games against the top-tier teams this season, and Kyrie Irving's absence is starting to show against the NBA's best. 2. Phoenix Suns (17-3): Sixteen wins in a row should tell the whole story, but after racking up a bunch of wins in a soft part of the schedule, the Suns demolished the Knicks and Nets on back-to-back nights on the road, proving this run is definitely no fluke. Devin Booker is playing some of the best basketball of his career, and Mikal Bridges is becoming a two-way force. 1. Golden State Warriors (18-2): The Warriors continue to dominate their opponents, and now have the biggest test of their season coming up with two games against the red-hot Suns. To play this well so far this season, without Klay Thompson, is remarkable and should terrify the league. If the Warriors can stay relatively healthy, this might become a "championship or bust" type year.