1. Golden State Warriors (38-6, 1st in Western Conference)
The Warriors continue their hot streak of bulldozing through opponents this week, extending their winning streak to seven. Kevin Durant once again proved he doesn’t need his old pal Russell Westbrook, as he scored a season-high 40 points against his former team. Stephen Curry is having another stellar season and would be in the MVP conversation if not for the record-breaking performances of Westbrook and James Harden. The Warriors won’t break their own record of 73-9, but they are still the favorite to come out of the jam-packed Western Conference.
2. San Antonio Spurs (34-9, 2nd in Western Conference)
The Spurs bounced back in a big way after a disappointing loss to the second-to-last place Suns in Mexico City. Kawhi Leonard had a career night against the defending champions, dropping 41 points and getting the win against Lebron James and the Cavaliers. The Spurs shouldn’t worry about losing their place in the standings despite losing starting power forward Pau Gasol for four to six weeks. The 17-year veteran broke his finger during pregame warmups against the Nuggets.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (30-12, 1st in Eastern Conference)
Despite losing two out of their past three games, the Cavaliers remain in the top three in this week’s power rankings. It just doesn’t matter what LeBron and the Cavs achieve in the regular season; they are clearly a step-and-a-half ahead of every team in the Eastern Conference. The defending champions should focus on the process of integrating new pieces on offense. The Cavaliers are still the team to beat in the East, even with their recent struggles, and shouldn’t have a problem making the franchise’s third straight NBA Finals appearance.
4. Houston Rockets (34-13, 3rd in Western Conference)
Harden continues to tear up the league while playing his new position. Role players, such as second-year Sam Dekker are also stepping up when given the chance. Dekker dropped a career-high 30 points in his first career start and helped his club past the Grizzlies on Saturday night. The Rockets’ fast-paced offense will get their starting power forward, Ryan Anderson, back next week. Anderson leads all qualifying power forwards with 2.7 3-pointers a game.
5. Utah Jazz (29-17, 5th in Western Conference)
The Utah Jazz won six in a row before losing to the Thunder thanks to a game-winner by Russell Westbrook on Monday night. Gordon Hayward is having a fantastic year, averaging a career high in points and rebounds per game. Rudy Gobert will most likely earn his first All-Star nod with a breakout year that has him placing in the top five in blocks, field goal percentage and rebounds. The Jazz rely on their defense, which ranks second in the league, to stifle opponents and force bad shots. Look for the Jazz to make a move before the trade deadline to bolster their roster and their first chance at a playoff run since 2012.