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NBA Power Rankings This Week - Raptors Can't Be Beat

There are many intriguing races going on in the NBA right now.

The first is obviously the top record in the NBA, where the Toronto Raptors are starting to pull away from the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors. Of course, the best record won't matter once the playoffs begin.

And on the flip side, there are five teams that are competing hard for the top draft lottery odds.  The downside to that, of course, is simply losing a ton of games and placing low in power rankings.

Here is where every team stands heading into the second week of December.

30. Phoenix Suns (4-22)

Well, at least they'll likely wind up with R.J. Barrett or Zion Williamson in the 2019 Draft. The Suns might just be one more young superstar away from becoming a playoff contender again.

29. Chicago Bulls (6-21)

Head coach Fred Hoiberg took the blame for this team's struggles. It's not his fault that the team was hit with a bunch of injuries. Lauri Markkanen's return should help them more at both ends of the court, though.

28. Cleveland Cavaliers (6-20)

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The rebuild is on. George Hill was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Expect more moves for GM Koby Altman.

27. Atlanta Hawks (6-20)

The Hawks have now lost seven of their last 10. It'll be a fun race between them, Phoenix, Chicago and Cleveland for the top two picks in the 2019 draft.

26. Brooklyn Nets (10-18)

Well, that home win against the Toronto Raptors on Friday was something else.

25. New York Knicks (8-19)

The Knicks aren't horrible compared to the other bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference...so there's that. But until Kristaps Porzingis returns, there isn't much for fans to enjoy in the Big Apple right now.

24. Miami Heat (11-14)

Time to sell? The Heat are lacking big-time scorers and playmakers. Their best bet is to load up on assets at the trade deadline and dip their feet in what will be a stacked July free agent class.

23. San Antonio Spurs (12-14)

Barring a big-time turnaround, the Spurs are looking like a team that will miss the playoffs for the first year since 1997. DeMar DeRozan's talents simply aren't enough to make up for a flawed roster and weak bench.

22. Houston Rockets (11-14)

We keep waiting for the Rockets to turn it around. The roster is healthy now, so when will they regain the 65-win team form? Head coach Mike D'Antoni may be let go if things don't change in the new year.

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21. Washington Wizards (11-15)

Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Given all the drama and non-stop trade rumors centering around John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards deserve credit for turning it around this week. Wednesday's win against Atlanta marked their third victory in a row.

20. Charlotte Hornets (12-13)

Here they are, below the .500 mark now. Might the front office be feeling an urge to trade for another big-time scorer? Kemba Walker is great, but he cannot carry this team to the playoffs on his own.

19. New Orleans Pelicans (13-14)

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Not trying to be captain obvious here, but being mired in mediocrity won't help the Pelicans' chances of getting Anthony Davis to re-sign.

18. Orlando Magic (12-14)

Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon provide a nice scoring duo, and they have the Magic in contention for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

17. Utah Jazz (13-13)

They demolished the Houston Rockets at home on Thursday night to reach the .500 mark again. Now, if Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert could just get a little more production from their teammates...

16. Sacramento Kings (13-12)

The Kings are cooling off a bit after a surprisingly hot start to the season. A lot will have to go right for them to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

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15. Dallas Mavericks (13-11)

The Mavs' offseason reinforcements have done wonders. Luka Doncic just might run away with the Rookie of the Year award, while veteran center DeAndre Jordan has been worth most of the $24 million Dallas gave him this offseason.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13)

The T-Wolves are right back in the playoff race, thanks to the help from trade pickups Robert Covington and Dario Saric. With Karl-Anthony Towns getting better and better, this team looks ready for another run at the playoffs.

13. Portland Trail Blazers (15-11)

The Trail Blazers have lost six out of their last eight games. Good thing they started out 12-5, though. Portland will be in contention for a top-three seed in the West this year, assuming they bust out of this slump soon.

12. Detroit Pistons (13-10)

The Pistons have been hot and cold all season long, but that recent five-game winning streak helped them regain much-needed momentum. It's possible they host a first-round playoff series come April.

11. Memphis Grizzlies (15-10)

Mike Conley has been one of the most overlooked players this season, averaging over 20 points per game. The Grizzlies continue to surpass expectations. J. B. Bickerstaff is an early candidate for Coach of the Year. Period.

10. Indiana Pacers (16-10)

Nothing has changed in Indiana. The Pacers are still getting by with Victor Oladipo and a stingy defense. They're vying for a top-three spot in the Eastern Conference right now. No reason to think the Pacers are going away any time soon.

9. Boston Celtics (15-10)

The Celtics have finally found their groove on offense, and it has unsurprisingly led to five straight wins. Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum are playing up to their usual standards again. Expect the hot surge to continue.

8. Los Angeles Lakers (16-10)

Typical LeBron James, carrying a not-so-great roster to one of the top records in the league. Los Angeles has now won four straight games, and they could very well be in contention for the top seed by April. What a start for LeBron in Laker Land.

7. Philadelphia 76ers (18-9)

No shame in a road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Jimmy Butler has given this team that much-needed third superstar and strong outside shooter. The 76ers look like a true championship contender right now.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (16-9)

The Clippers have been the biggest surprise team on the young season. Tobias Harris is growing into a star, and Lou Williams has earned every penny of that $24 million extension. And to think they'll probably land one or two superstars in free agency...

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (16-8)

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Just an amazing turnaround in Oklahoma City. After an 0-4 start, they've gone on an excellent 16-4 run. Russell Westbrook has to be in consideration for the MVP race right now.

4. Golden State Warriors (18-9)

No, they won't surpass the 73-win Warriors team from 2015-16. But given the difficult schedule and long list of injuries this team has endured early in the season, you have to be impressed with their record. The Warriors remain the NBA Championship favorite, no matter what the record is.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (16-8)

The third-best team in the NBA acquired veteran guard George Hill from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Giannis Antetokounmpo is making his case as the best player in the Eastern Conference. What a year it's been Milwaukee.

2. Denver Nuggets (17-9)

The Nuggets have won seven games of their last nine, highlighted by a monumental road win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday. Jamal Murray is quickly growing into one of the NBA's top young stars.

1.Toronto Raptors (21-6)

Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Not much can be said that hasn't already been said. Kawhi Leonard is playing like a true MVP candidate, and the Raptors have won eight of their last 10 games. Anything less than a trip to the NBA Finals would be a huge letdown. The bar has been raised a lot higher now.

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