NBA Power Rankings: Who can beat the Nuggets right now?

by Gordon Dixon - Denver has surged to the top of the West during a stretch that includes wins over the Nets, Cavaliers, Clippers and other contenders.

NBA Power Rankings: Nuggets powering past NBA's elite, Kevin Durant injury could be big help for Boston 7:50 AM ET ESPN.com Since the turn of the new year the Denver Nuggets have beaten the Boston Celtics , Cleveland Cavaliers and LA Clippers , and have taken over the top spot in the Western Conference alongside the Memphis Grizzlies . Two-time defending MVP Nikola Jokic is putting together his third legitimate campaign for the award and is getting big-time contributions from teammates Jamal Murray , Michael Porter Jr . and Aaron Gordon . But don't expect Denver to shake Memphis easily. The Grizzlies have won seven in a row. While those wins have come against lesser competition than the Nuggets' recent stretch, Memphis will have plenty of opportunities to prove it can be the top team in the West with two more contests against the Nuggets to come in the next few months. Memphis has already proven it can fend off the third-place New Orleans Pelicans , having won the past two games between them. Still, the Pelicans have a claim in what is shaping up to be a three-team race in the West, as New Orleans is still just two and a half games behind Memphis and Denver. Meanwhile, the Celtics managed to outlast the Nets' recent hot streak to keep hold of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston could also be getting a huge break in its quest to keep that spot with Kevin Durant set to miss a month of action just in time for two high-stakes meetings between the Nets and Celtics in the coming weeks. Note : Throughout the regular season, our panel (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders. Previous rankings: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 Illustration by ESPN 2022-23 record: 29-12 Previous ranking: 1 Robert Williams III has moved back into the starting lineup, and Boston, after a monthlong offensive swoon, has gotten back on track at that end. The Celtics still remain the league's best offensive team, in addition to having the NBA's best record at the halfway point. -- Bontemps 2022-23 record: 27-13 Previous ranking: 3 The Nuggets are tied for the best offense in the league, and they're still getting better and healthier. Jamal Murray scored a season-high 34 points on Monday night, Aaron Gordon is playing at an All-Star level, Michael Porter Jr. is coming into his own, and then there's Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets have won 11 of their past 13, and there are no signs of slowing down any time soon. -- Andrews 3. Memphis Grizzlies 2022-23 record: 27-13 Previous ranking: 4 Editor's Picks First-round picks are of no use to LeBron James, and here's why 19h Brian Windhorst 2 Related Tyus Jones averaged 22.5 points, 6.0 assists and only 1.5 turnovers while filling in for Ja Morant (thigh soreness) the past two games. He has scored more than 20 points in his past four starts -- all wins. The Grizzlies are 23-7 when Jones has filled in as a starter the past two seasons, which is why Memphis made re-signing him a top priority last summer. -- MacMahon 4. Brooklyn Nets 2022-23 record: 27-13 Previous ranking: 2 The hottest team in the league has rattled off 18 wins in its past 20 games -- but lost Kevin Durant to an MCL injury in Sunday's win over the Heat, and he is expected to miss several weeks before he returns to the floor. In the short term, T.J. Warren and Joe Harris are going to have to pick up a little more slack offensively. Ben Simmons is also going to have to provide more on both ends of the floor to take some pressure off Kyrie Irving . -- Friedell 5. Milwaukee Bucks 2022-23 record: 26-14 Previous ranking: 5 Since starting the season 9-0, the Bucks have played just over .500 ball (17-14) for most of the past two months. While Milwaukee's defense remains one of the best in the league, its offense ranks 25th in the NBA in points per 100 possessions, and Khris Middleton has missed 12 straight games. -- Collier 2022-23 record: 26-16 Previous ranking: 6 Donovan Mitchell continued his storybook first season with the Cavs with a memorable night in his return to Salt Lake City to play his former squad on Tuesday. The Jazz fans showed their former star love all night, and Mitchell made the price of admission well worth it, finishing with 46 points for his fifth 40-plus-point game this season. Those Jazz fans also got to see the home team use a late 13-0 run to win. "The reception was phenomenal, and I'm appreciative of it," Mitchell told reporters afterward. -- McMenamin 7. Philadelphia 76ers 2022-23 record: 25-15 Previous ranking: 7 It's never a good thing to hear about Joel Embiid having foot soreness, but after the big fella returned in a dominant win over Detroit on Tuesday, Philadelphia is sitting 10 games over .500 after a slow start. The 76ers have had only nine games this season in which their top three players -- Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey -- have all been available to play together. -- Bontemps 2022-23 record: 25-16 Previous ranking: 8 After setting a career high with 23 points on Jan. 6 against Brooklyn, Naji Marshall broke that mark again the next night with 24 against the Dallas Mavericks . Jose Alvarado also broke out of a slump and is averaging 13.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the past four with Zion Williamson out. Over that stretch, the two are tops on the team in plus-minus -- Alvarado is plus-43 and Marshall is plus-36. The next highest Pelican who played in all four games is Devonte' Graham at plus-7. -- Lopez 9. Dallas Mavericks 2022-23 record: 23-19 Previous ranking: 9 The Mavs have allowed 116.0 points per 100 possessions since defensive anchor Maxi Kleber tore his right hamstring, falling to 22nd in defensive efficiency for the season. Dallas is 9-6 in that span because the Luka Doncic -led offense is scoring 116.3 points per 100 possessions. Doncic rested in two of the losses. -- MacMahon 2022-23 record: 23-18 Previous ranking: 13 The NBA on ESPN and the ESPN App Wednesday Friday *All times Eastern The Pacers have won six of their past seven games and eight of their past 10. During that stretch, Tyrese Haliburton has put up 22.7 points and 9.2 assists while shooting 51% from the field and 45% from 3-point range. -- Collier 11. Golden State Warriors 2022-23 record: 20-21 Previous ranking: 14 The Warriors finally have their starting five back together, with Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Curry back on the floor, and they believe they can finally start putting all of their pieces together. They went 5-3 on their homestand, but now comes the real test: What can they do on their five-game road trip? -- Andrews 12. Sacramento Kings 2022-23 record: 21-18 Previous ranking: 11 The beam is still bright in Sacramento. The Kings' offense has been able to make up for their shaky defense, and Domantas Sabonis is still on an absolute tear. Besides Jokic, Sabonis is the only other player to be in the top 19 in both rebounds and assists. Sabonis also leads the league in double-doubles. -- Andrews 13. New York Knicks 2022-23 record: 22-19 Previous ranking: 17 New York, fairly, is not seen as a championship-caliber team. That said, the Knicks currently sit 10th in both offensive and defensive rating -- a sign of at least a contending team. That's the good news for the Knicks. The bad news: Three of the other four teams that qualify for that honor -- the Celtics, Nets and 76ers -- reside in the Atlantic Division alongside them. -- Bontemps 14. Miami Heat 2022-23 record: 22-20 Previous ranking: 12 Jimmy Butler and the Heat set an NBA record in Tuesday's win over the Thunder by going 40-for-40 from the free throw line. Miami has back-to-back showdowns at home this week against the Bucks, which should provide another chance for the Heat to get back on track against one of the East's elite teams. -- Friedell 15. LA Clippers 2022-23 record: 22-21 Previous ranking: 10 The Clippers halted a six-game losing streak -- the longest of the Kawhi Leonard -Paul George era -- with a much-needed win over old nemesis Luka Doncic. With George and Luke Kennard out because of injuries, head coach Ty Lue benched Reggie Jackson and put Terance Mann in the starting lineup. In his two starts, Mann has given the Clippers extra energy, especially at the start of games. Leonard continues to build as he has played 35 or more minutes in five of his past six games. -- Youngmisuk 16. Phoenix Suns 2022-23 record: 21-21 Previous ranking: 15 Devin Booker has missed 11 of the Suns' past 12 games because of a pesky hamstring injury, and Phoenix has gone just 3-9 in that stretch. It stopped the bleeding for one night with Tuesday's win in Golden State -- with not only no Booker, but no Chris Paul or Deandre Ayton either -- thanks to a near triple-double from Dario Saric and a stellar two-way performance from Mikal Bridges . -- McMenamin 17. Minnesota Timberwolves 2022-23 record: 20-21 Previous ranking: 22 NBA on ESPN+ Get access to exclusive original series, premium articles from our NBA insiders, the full 30 for 30 library and more. Sign up now to unlock everything ESPN+ has to offer . Rudy Gobert finally had a big night while wearing a Timberwolves uniform, and things have been improving for Minnesota over its past four games, but how all of the pieces will fit together whenever Karl-Anthony Towns returns is still a big question. -- Andrews 18. Portland Trail Blazers 2022-23 record: 19-21 Previous ranking: 16 The Blazers continue to sink in the standings, losing their fourth straight after Orlando won in Portland. The Blazers have now dropped nine of their past 12, and the schedule doesn't get any easier. Portland faces Cleveland and Dallas back to back, along with Denver and Philadelphia in its next five games. -- Youngmisuk 19. Los Angeles Lakers 2022-23 record: 19-22 Previous ranking: 21 We're entering into circling-the-calendar territory when it comes to LeBron James and the all-time scoring title. He's 423 points away from passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for No. 1. At his current 29.1 points-per-game average this season, he'll need 15 games to get there if he doesn't miss any time. That would be Feb. 9 at home against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. "I don't even know how I'm going to feel, I guess, until that moment," James told ESPN when asked about the record last week. -- McMenamin 20. Atlanta Hawks 2022-23 record: 19-21 Previous ranking: 19 Atlanta was able to put a winning stamp on its four-game West Coast road trip with a 112-108 win over the Clippers on Sunday night. The Clippers led by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter before Atlanta stormed back for the win behind 14 fourth-quarter points by Trae Young -- the most he has scored in a fourth quarter this season. It was also the 750th victory of Nate McMillan's coaching career, making him the 18th coach to reach that mark. -- Lopez 21. Utah Jazz 2022-23 record: 21-23 Previous ranking: 18 Jordan Clarkson stole the show during Donovan Mitchell's return to Salt Lake City, scoring 15 of his 32 points during the fourth quarter as the Jazz rallied for a comeback win. Utah is 10-2 when Clarkson scores at least 30 points during his Jazz tenure. Clarkson is averaging a career-best 20.7 points per game this season after transitioning from sixth man to fill Mitchell's old spot in the starting lineup. -- MacMahon 2022-23 record: 19-22 Previous ranking: 24 The Bulls have started to right the ship lately, winning eight of their past 12 games after a disastrous loss to the Timberwolves. Chicago's offense has finally woken up and ranks sixth in the NBA in offensive efficiency during that span. Zach LaVine is starting to look like his old self, averaging 26.9 points on 52% shooting (47% from 3) in the past three weeks. -- Collier 23. Toronto Raptors 2022-23 record: 18-23 Previous ranking: 23 For as disappointing as this season has been for Toronto, the Raptors are only one game out of 10th place in the Eastern Conference. With games against Charlotte and Atlanta at home the rest of this week, the Raptors could be within the top 10 spots in the East by this time next week. -- Bontemps 24. Washington Wizards 2022-23 record: 17-24 Previous ranking: 20 LeBron chasing the scoring record LeBron James is on track to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time leader in regular-season points this season. We'll have complete coverage all year long. • Game-by-game points tracker • The last game LeBron didn't score 10 • Windhorst: Who's assisted LeBron most? • Goldsberry: The 3's impact on LeBron • The first player born after LeBron's debut The up-and-down Wizards are on another slide, losing three straight with Bradley Beal injured. Beal hasn't played since the first half of Washington's loss at Milwaukee on Jan. 3. Beal will be out for at least one more game against Chicago and is expected to have his hamstring injury reevaluated later this week. -- Youngmisuk 2022-23 record: 18-23 Previous ranking: 25 The Thunder performed well in their first national television appearance since Aug. 14, 2020, when they played the Clippers in the bubble. Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, the Heat didn't miss a free throw. Miami went 40-for-40 from the line -- the most makes in NBA history without a miss. Josh Giddey had 18 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists for the sixth triple-double of his career. That ties LaMelo Ball for the third most in NBA history for a player under age 21, behind Luka Doncic (21) and Magic Johnson (seven).-- Lopez 2022-23 record: 16-26 Previous ranking: 26 Orlando continues to show signs of improvement, especially after a nice road win over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. Franz Wagner is averaging 20.7 points this month, Paolo Banchero continues to look like the Rookie of the Year, and the Magic appear to be on the verge of finally getting back Jonathan Isaac , according to reporting by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Magic should be on a very good path heading into the second half of the season. -- Friedell 27. San Antonio Spurs 2022-23 record: 13-28 Previous ranking: 27 Zach Collins played in just 39 games over three seasons while dealing with various injuries and missed 10 games earlier this season because of a non-displaced fibula fracture. But since returning from that on Nov. 25, Collins has been a solid rotational player for the Spurs. On Jan. 7 against the Celtics, Collins had one of the best games of his career with 18 points and 12 rebounds. He set or tied career marks in points (18), assists (five), field goals made (eight) and was one off his career high in rebounds. -- Lopez 28. Charlotte Hornets 2022-23 record: 11-31 Previous ranking: 29 Charlotte is giving up an average of 121.8 points over its past five games. The defense continues to have major problems finding any rhythm. One of the lone bright spots is the offensive play of Terry Rozier , who is averaging 26.5 points per game over five games this month. -- Friedell 29. Detroit Pistons 2022-23 record: 11-33 Previous ranking: 30 Inserted into the starting lineup as a result of Cade Cunningham 's season-ending injury, Killian Hayes is finally showing signs of development this season. He matched a career high with 26 points this weekend against the Sixers and is averaging 12.3 points and 6.6 assists on 42.8% shooting and 36.5% from 3 as a starter. -- Collier 30. Houston Rockets 2022-23 record: 10-30 Previous ranking: 28 Houston has lost 13 of its past 14 games. Kevin Porter Jr . has by far the Rockets' worst plus-minus (minus-121) during that stretch, despite outstanding individual production (21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game). -- MacMahon