NBA Power Rankings: The Return of Zion

The New Orleans Pelicans will look to make a playoff push with Zion Williamson slated to return tonight. Which other teams saw movement in our rankings?

More than half of the 2019-20 NBA season is in the books, which means it’s time to check out where each team stands in our power rankings.

Teams will be ranked in terms of nERD, which is our efficiency metric based on in-game data. These ratings allow us to understand which teams and players are performing best. nERD is indicative of a team's expected winning percentage, so an average team will have a nERD score of 50.0.

There's been a lot of movement, as just nine teams stayed in the same rank over the last couple of weeks. Let’s take a look at how each team stacks up.

The Bottom 10

RankingTeamRecordnERDLast RankingPlus/Minus
30Cleveland Cavaliers12-3218.6300
29Atlanta Hawks10-3419.9290
28New York Knicks12-3227.527-1
27Golden State Warriors10-3527.828+1
26Charlotte Hornets15-3028.2260
25Washington Wizards14-2833.5250
24Sacramento Kings15-2837.922-2
23Chicago Bulls16-2939.819-4
22Minnesota Timberwolves15-2840.120-2
21New Orleans Pelicans17-2741.124+3

- It seems like forever ago that the Sacramento Kings won 8 of their first 11 games in November. Since the start of December, Sacramento has lost 18 of their last 25 contests, including 5 in a row.

- This week's Faller of the Week Award goes to the Chicago Bulls. Chicago actually played .500 ball throughout the entirety of December but have now lost 8 of 11 in 2020. The Bulls have struggled all season offensively, as indicated by their fourth-worst offensive efficiency rating.

- Speaking of disappointing, remember when the Minnesota Timberwolves started the season 10-8? They are an abysmal 5-20 since and are currently riding a six-game winless streak. Minnesota currently sports the eighth-worst net rating in the league, as well as the fourth-worst effective field goal percentage. The return of Karl-Anthony Towns has not eased any of their struggles, as the team has dropped 10 straight with him in the fold.

- Since their 13-game losing streak that ended in mid-December, the New Orleans Pelicans have won 11 of their last 16 matchups, including bouts with the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, and Utah Jazz. With Zion Williamson expected to return tonight, it's not out of the realm of possibilities that the Pels make a serious playoff push in the Western Conference.

The Middle of the Pack

RankingTeamRecordnERDLast RankingPlus/Minus
20Detroit Pistons16-2843.022+2
19Brooklyn Nets18-2443.418-1
18Memphis Grizzlies20-2344.023+5
17Portland Trail Blazers19-2645.816-1
16San Antonio Spurs19-2348.615-1
15Phoenix Suns18-2549.317+2
14Orlando Magic21-2350.0140
13Oklahoma City Thunder25-1956.4130
12Denver Nuggets30-1357.911-1
11Indiana Pacers28-1658.38-3

- After winning their first game with Kyrie Irving back in the lineup, the Brooklyn Nets have since dropped four straight contests. To make matters worse, the Nets had to hold Irving out of their most recent game due to a hamstring injury.

- Don't look now, but the Memphis Grizzlies currently sit eighth in the Western Conference. Once 6-16, the Grizzlies have won 14 of their last 21 games, including a seven-game win streak that ended on Monday. Memphis hasn't just been beating bottom-feeders -- since December they've defeated the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets. The Grizzlies have the league's fourth-best net rating since the start of 2020.

- The Phoenix Suns have been as inconsistent as any team in the Association this season. Phoenix started the season 7-4, then lost six of seven, then won three of five, and then proceeded to lose 11 of their next 14 contests. But the Suns have turned things around over their last couple of weeks, winning four of their last six matchups. In fact, only three teams have a better defensive rating than the Suns over their last six games.

The Best of the Best

RankingTeamRecordnERDLast RankingPlus/Minus
10Miami Heat30-1359.69-1
9Houston Rockets26-1659.76-3
8Philadelphia 76ers29-1659.99+1
7Utah Jazz30-1360.212+5
6Los Angeles Clippers31-1363.97+1
5Boston Celtics28-1465.44-1
4Toronto Raptors29-1467.05+1
3Dallas Mavericks27-1668.830
2Los Angeles Lakers34-973.320
1Milwaukee Bucks39-686.910

- The Miami Heat dropped a spot in our rankings after losing three of their last six, including a defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks.

- James Harden and the Houston Rockets have lost five of their last six, with the losses coming by an average of 11.2 points. In the month of January, Houston is bottom-12 in offensive rating, assist percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounding percentage, turnover percentage, effective field goal percentage, and steals. Houston is also dead last in three-point percentage for the month, despite attempting a mind-boggling 42.3 per game.

- Our Riser of the Week Award goes to the Utah Jazz. Utah has won 17 of their last 19 and are now just a half-game behind the second seed in the Western Conference. The Jazz continue to shoot lights out, as they're first in the league in three-point percentage and third in field goal percentage. Utah is inside the top-eight in offensive, defensive, and net rating. Quin Snyder's squad finish the month with three games against teams that are top six in their conference, so we're about to find out just how legitimate they are.

- The Milwaukee Bucks are on pace for the third-best record in NBA history. The Deer are 4.5 points ahead of the next best team in terms of net rating, as well as 13.6 points better than any team in terms of our nERD score. They have the number one spot locked down until further notice.