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NBA Power Rankings: 76ers Skyrocket Behind James Harden, Joel Embiid

Stan Son updates his 2021-22 NBA championship power rankings.

New York Knicks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

I expect the internet tomatoes to fly at my head after submitting this post, but this is the life that I have chosen. There were massive movements at the top of the power rankings this week, which surprised me a bit. Now, before I begin, keep in mind that I try and balance short-term results with long-term perspective. With that said, get your tomatoes ready.

The Miami Heat take the top spot. For those who have read my past work, you know that I’ve been enamored with the Heat for quite some time and think they have a good chance to win it all. DraftKings Sportsbook has them at +1000 to win it all and that’s enticing to me. They are 6th in offensive pace and 5th in defensive efficiency. They have a star in Jimmy Butler and championship pedigree in Kyle Lowry. They have plenty of playoff experience and Bam Adebayo is a chess piece that wreaks havoc at both ends of the floor. They also have plenty of shooting and offensive firepower off the bench. While they only attempt 35.8 three-pointers per game, they convert at the third-highest rate (37.3%). Against the top teams in the East, they are 2-2 against the Bucks with both teams taking care of home court, 3-0 against the Bulls, 1-1 against the 76ers and 0-2 against Boston. Over the last five games, they are 4-1 with a net rating of +6.5.

The Philadelphia 76ers also jump up towards the top, as they have won three straight with James Harden in the mix. The offensive rating has been 125.3 while the defensive rating was 104.9 over that span, good for a net rating of a whopping 20.4. The 76ers now have elite options inside/outside/downtown/all around. They are ninth in defensive efficiency and have wing defenders to neutralize some of the best offensive attacks. There was uncertainty as to how Harden would gel and what his conditioning and motivation would be. It’s only been three games but things look mighty fine. This is a dangerous team.

Both the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns drop a bit for divergent reasons. The Warriors have dropped six of their last eight games. Even though they are still one of the favorites to win it all on DraftKings Sportsbook at +450, I couldn’t justify putting them atop the rankings with the Heat and 76ers playing so well. The Suns have lost two of three games and the injury to Chris Paul hurts. If he returns for the playoffs healthy, then they remain the favorites and DK Sportsbook still has them at +380 to win it all. As for now, though, I am putting them below the Heat and 76ers since both of those teams are healthy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers tumble six spots. They’ve been hit hard with injuries, resulting in a 1-4 record over the last five games. The net rating was -6.9 as the offense was inept and the defense, which had been 4th in efficiency for the season, was porous.

The Brooklyn Nets stay at 16 but Kevin Durant is set to return and Kyrie Irving could play more games. The return of Durant should provide a boost and elevate them up the rankings but I think they have fallen below the legitimate championship tier. As mentioned before, Andre Drummond is good for fantasy but terrible for real-life basketball. He will get exposed in playoff basketball. DK Sportsbook has the Nets at +475 to win it all and I just cannot get behind that number.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 24

1 Memphis Grizzlies 2
2 Phoenix Suns 1
3 Miami Heat 4
4 Dallas Mavericks 6
5 Milwaukee Bucks 3
6 Boston Celtics 5
7 Philadelphia 76ers 7
8 Denver Nuggets 8
9 Toronto Raptors 9
10 Brooklyn Nets 10
11 Utah Jazz 11
12 Atlanta Hawks 16
13 Golden State Warriors 12
14 Minnesota Timberwolves 13
15 Chicago Bulls 14
16 Charlotte Hornets 15
17 Los Angeles Clippers 18
18 Cleveland Cavaliers 17
19 San Antonio Spurs 19
20 New Orleans Pelicans 21
21 Washington Wizards 22
22 New York Knicks 20
23 Sacramento Kings 23
24 Houston Rockets 28
25 Detroit Pistons 25
26 Orlando Magic 26
27 Los Angeles Lakers 24
28 Indiana Pacers 27
29 Oklahoma City Thunder 29
30 Portland Trail Blazers 30

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