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NBA Power Rankings Week 5: Houston surges into top 3; Golden State hits rock bottom

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Harden sizzles with 49 points in Rockets' win (1:34)

James Harden scores 49 points with eight 3-pointers in the Rockets' 125-105 win over the Timberwolves. (1:34)

The Houston Rockets are the hottest team in the NBA, and they have one player to thank -- Buddy Hield.

Wait, what?

That's right, thanks in large part to 35 points from Hield on Sunday, the Sacramento Kings snapped the Boston Celtics' NBA-leading, 10-game win streak, leaving the Rockets' seven-game run as the longest active win streak in the league. That, and James Harden breaking all kinds of offensive records, of course.

How high can Houston climb? Where does Boston land after the loss? And what will Paul George's scorching start mean for the LA Clippers? We answer all that and more in this week's edition.

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Andre' Snellings, Royce Young and Bobby Marks, and The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears) 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 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Camp | Free agency | Post-Finals

1. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 11-2
Week 4 ranking: 1

LeBron James set his season high with a plus-30 plus/minus after recording 33 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds in a win over Atlanta on Sunday. It was his 11th double-double of the season (third best in the NBA). James already has four 30-point games this season. -- Spears

This week: OKC, @OKC, @MEM


2. Boston Celtics
Record: 10-2
Week 4 ranking: 4

The loss of Gordon Hayward to a broken hand did little to cool off the hottest team in the NBA. Despite a one-point loss at Sacramento, Boston still had wins this week over Dallas, Washington and Golden State. The Celtics have an Eastern Conference-best 10-2 record and rank third overall in point differential. In the three wins this week, Jaylen Brown had his best stretch of basketball, averaging 23.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game and pulling off a rare 50/50 -- 51.9% from the field and 50% from deep. -- Marks

This week: @PHX, @LAC, @DEN


3. Houston Rockets
Record: 10-3
Week 4 ranking: 10

James Harden could really have a legitimate chance to join Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to average 40 points per game for a season. Harden is averaging 39.5 points despite shooting poorly in four of the first five games of the season. Harden has averaged 43.0 points during the Rockets' seven-game winning streak, and he isn't just lighting it up on offense. Houston is allowing only 95.9 points per 100 possessions with Harden on the floor during the winning streak. -- MacMahon

This week: POR, @DEN, @LAC, DAL


4. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 9-3
Week 4 ranking: 3

The Bucks have lost Khris Middleton to injury for the next few weeks, but they actually stepped up their play to go undefeated for the week. They have won three straight games and seven of their past eight, and their offense has keyed the way, as they are leading the league in scoring (118.8 points per game) and are fourth in team field goal percentage (47.1%). Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the efficiency brigade, taking 46.4% of his shots within 3 feet of the rim and making a whopping 83.7% of them. -- Snellings

This week: @CHI, @ATL, POR, DET


5. LA Clippers
Record: 8-5
Week 4 ranking: 2

So, Paul George is back -- like, back. In two games, he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. As George said after his 37 in 20 minutes against the Hawks, he has new shoulders and hasn't been this healthy in some time. He came back with such force that it overshadowed what was otherwise a pretty bad loss to the Pelicans in his debut. But we're still waiting on George and Kawhi Leonard to take the floor together, and you can see the potential two-way destruction coming with it. -- Young

This week: OKC, BOS, HOU, NO


6. Utah Jazz
Record: 8-4
Week 4 ranking: 5

Utah misses backup big man Ed Davis, who the Jazz hope will return from a broken left fibula in two weeks. In the meantime, developmental prospect Tony Bradley has been pushed into the rotation, averaging a dozen minutes per game, during which the Jazz have a minus-16.0 net rating. Utah has still won four of six games since Davis' injury, in part because of center Rudy Gobert's dominance (16.7 points on 72.5% shooting, 15.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks per game). Gobert wants to play more minutes, but the Jazz aren't willing to take a long-term risk for a short-term solution. -- MacMahon

This week: MIN, @MIN, GS, NO


7. Denver Nuggets
Record: 9-3
Week 4 ranking: 6

Other than providing the opportunity for Trae Young to stunt on his haters, the Nuggets had another steady, solid week. They've won six of seven, and it's been a little something different in most of those. On Sunday, it was Jamal Murray with 39 points and eight assists in one of the most complete games of his young career. Against the Nets a few nights earlier, it was stingy defense and balanced scoring with seven players in double figures. That's the unique element to the Nuggets: They don't rely on any one player to beat you, but at any moment, they have a couple of players who can do it anyway. -- Young

This week: HOU, BOS, PHX


8. Miami Heat
Record: 9-3
Week 4 ranking: 9

The schedule set them up for a three-game winning streak, and the Heat obliged in convincing fashion. They are fourth in defensive efficiency and have the fifth-best overall net rating (6.5) in the league. And if you're looking at a week like the last one and saying it's a schedule thing, consider this: According to ESPN RPI, the Heat have played the second-toughest schedule so far, and according to Tankathon, they have the second-easiest remaining schedule in the league. -- Young

This week: CLE, @CHI, @PHI


9. Toronto Raptors
Record: 8-4
Week 4 ranking: 7

The Raptors just went 3-2 on a rough, five-game road swing that included wins over the Lakers and Trail Blazers but losses to the Clippers and Mavericks. They have continued to play well despite the injury absence of Kyle Lowry (thumb), in large part thanks to the excellent play of Fred VanVleet, who has averaged 22.8 points, 8.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game during the four games since Lowry went down. -- Snellings

This week: CHA, ORL, @ATL


10. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 8-5
Week 4 ranking: 8

After arriving at No. 1 two weeks ago, Philadelphia has gone 3-5, including recent road losses at Orlando and Oklahoma City. A silver lining for Philly? Friday's loss to the Thunder was only the second time all season that the starting lineup that debuted on opening night (Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, Josh Richardson) lost a game. -- Marks

This week: NY, SA, MIA


11. Phoenix Suns
Record: 7-4
Week 4 ranking: 12

Understandably, much has been made of Devin Booker's 3-point shooting -- a career-high 50% this season -- but what about center Aron Baynes? After launching from deep just seven times over the first five campaigns of his career combined, then 21 times in 2017-18 and 61 last season, Baynes has made 22 of 47 3-pointers this season for a 46.8% clip -- Spears

This week: BOS, @SAC, NO, @MIN, @DEN


12. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 7-5
Week 4 ranking: 11

The Mavs rank second in the league in offensive efficiency (112.0 points per 100 possessions) despite too often becoming stagnant while attempting to get Kristaps Porzingis involved. His outing in Saturday's win over the Raptors represented significant progress despite his struggles from 3-point range (1-of-7, including some wide-open misses). "He played his best offensive game in terms of movement and causing problems for the other team," coach Rick Carlisle said. Porzingis scored twice on dunks off cuts, matching his total from his previous 10 games. -- MacMahon

This week: SA, GS, CLE, @HOU


13. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 7-6
Week 4 ranking: 16

The Timberwolves lost their last two games of the week after having won three of their previous four, and a good chunk of those blowout losses can be attributed to the absence of Andrew Wiggins (personal, bereavement). Wiggins was in the midst of a remarkable run, averaging 31.6 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and even 2.6 combined blocks and steals per game during his past five games as he continues his big, bounce-back season. -- Snellings

This week: @UTAH, UTAH, PHX


14. Indiana Pacers
Record: 7-6
Week 4 ranking: 14

The Pacers had won seven of eight games before consecutive tough matchups against the Rockets and Bucks led to losses. They also lost Malcolm Brogdon to injury early in the Rockets game, and the absence of their floor general clearly affected them. They did get Myles Turner back from injury on Saturday, and more good news could be on the horizon with All-Star Victor Oladipo starting a rehab assignment in the G League, suggesting he should be returning to NBA action in the foreseeable future. -- Snellings

This week: @BKN, ORL


15. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 5-8
Week 4 ranking: 13

Can you blame Gregg Popovich for wanting to get ejected Saturday night? It's been tough to watch the Spurs recently. San Antonio has lost five in a row, allowing 119.9 points per 100 possessions during the skid. The Spurs have had only one longer losing streak in the past two decades. -- MacMahon

This week: @DAL, @WSH, @PHI, @NY


16. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 5-7
Week 4 ranking: 15

The Nets limped to the finish line on a five-game road trip with a 2-3 record, including a win at Chicago without the backcourt that started the trip -- Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert. Irving would miss the last game versus the Bulls with a right shoulder impingement, while LeVert is out four to six weeks after surgery on his right thumb. Throw out the loss to Phoenix, and Brooklyn easily could have gone 4-1 during the trip. However, after having double-digit leads at the half against Utah and Denver, Brooklyn went on to shoot a combined 29.9% from the field, 15.9% from 3 and a paltry 43.9% on shots within 5 feet of the rim in those two games. -- Marks

This week: IND, CHA, SAC, @NY


17. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 5-7
Week 4 ranking: 18

He started slowly, but Chris Paul has quietly put together a couple of weeks of very good basketball. His game Friday against the 76ers was vintage Point God stuff, with him running the game down the stretch, mastering the midrange, finding open shooters for daggers and competing in mismatches on the defensive end. The Thunder are plus-3.3 points per 100 possessions with Paul on the floor and minus-5.3 with him off. Assists are at a career low, but that's more an indication of Paul's buy-in to give Shai Gilgeous-Alexander room to breathe than anything else. -- Young

This week: @LAC, @LAL, LAL


18. Orlando Magic
Record: 6-7
Week 4 ranking: 21

The Magic have bounced back from their slow start, winning four of five after losing four straight. One big change that they've made is leaning more on Evan Fournier as a lead guard. He averaged 21.0 points and 5.4 assists per game during the 4-1 stretch, after accounting for only 10.8 and 2.0, respectively, during the losing streak. Per Second Spectrum data, heading into Sunday, Fournier had produced 1.002 points per chance as the ball handler in pick situations, significantly up from point guards Markelle Fultz (0.779 points/chance) and D.J. Augustin (0.773 points/chance). -- Snellings

This week: @TOR, @IND


19. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 5-8
Week 4 ranking: 17

The Blazers are basically doing the inverse of the 2018-19 Rockets: They have gotten off to a terrible start (in part due to depth and injury issues) and are now bringing in Carmelo Anthony. Any hope that Melo is the solution in Portland might be a delusion of grandeur, but it is possible both sides can help each other. And it could be something of a soft opening for the Melo-era Blazers, too: Assuming he debuts Tuesday in New Orleans, five of his first six opponents are sub-.500 teams. -- Young

This week: @HOU, @NO, @MIL, @CLE


20. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 6-7
Week 4 ranking: 22

The Hornets' early season was salvaged by the heroics of Marvin Williams, Malik Monk and Devonte' Graham. Instead of a six-game losing streak with back-to-back losses to Detroit and New York, the Hornets now find themselves in the top eight of the Eastern Conference and just one game under .500. The win at New York saw Graham not only hit a 3 to win the game but also make nine 3-pointers, tied for the most by any NBA player this season. The three games this week also saw head coach James Borrego change his starting lineup, inserting Graham alongside Terry Rozier in the backcourt. The three-game sample saw the guards average a team-high 56.3 points when on the court. -- Marks

This week: @TOR, @BKN, @WSH, CHI


21. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 4-9
Week 4 ranking: 19

Vince Carter has been out since Nov. 8 and has missed the past five games for personal reasons. The veteran forward is expected to return to action on Wednesday against the Bucks in Atlanta. The 42-year-old is averaging 5.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game in what is expected to be his final NBA season. -- Spears

This week: MIL, @DET, TOR


22. Sacramento Kings
Record: 5-7
Week 4 ranking: 24

Bogdan Bogdanovic has been trying to ease the scoring loss of fellow guard De'Aaron Fox, who has been sidelined with an injury. Bogdanovic has averaged 18.3 points, 8.3 assists and 2.6 made 3-pointers over the past three games. Fox suffered a significant left ankle sprain in practice on Nov. 11, and he will be reevaluated in two to three weeks. -- Spears

This week: PHX, @BKN, @WSH


23. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 5-8
Week 4 ranking: 29

Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are the Grizzlies' franchise pillars for the foreseeable future, but Brandon Clarke must be mentioned prominently in any discussion about Memphis' long-term core. The 6-foot-8 Clarke, the No. 21 pick in the draft, appears to be the prize of the package acquired in the Mike Conley deal and a strong All-Rookie candidate. Clarke's November numbers: 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 71.4% from the floor and 63.6% from 3-point range. -- MacMahon

This week: GS, LAL


24. Detroit Pistons
Record: 4-9
Week 4 ranking: 20

The Pistons have lost four straight games and five of their past six, and their defense has been one of the main culprits. Detroit has allowed at least 109 points in all nine of their losses, with an average of 116 points per game allowed during those games. On the season, they have allowed opponents to shoot 48.4% from the field, the third-worst mark in the NBA. -- Snellings

This week: @CHI, ATL, @MIL


25. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 4-9
Week 4 ranking: 26

JJ Redick has been a major reason for the Pelicans' recent upswing. He has averaged 22.8 points in his past four games, three of which New Orleans has won, and has hit half of his 42 3-point attempts during that span. Redick's minutes also have risen dramatically recently because of injuries to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. -- MacMahon

This week: POR, @PHX, @UTAH, @LAC


26. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 4-8
Week 4 ranking: 23

Last week was full of teachable moments for the young Cavaliers. After a dominating win at New York and a one-point loss at Philadelphia, Cleveland was outscored 136-88 combined in the first halves against the Heat and 76ers. The eventual 11-point loss to Miami showed that the young backcourt of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton is still a work in progress; they combined to shoot 4-for-16 in the first half, including 0-for-5 from deep with an overall average minus-25 when they shared the court. -- Marks

This week: @NY, @MIA, @DAL, POR


27. Chicago Bulls
Record: 4-9
Week 4 ranking: 25

One of the few bright spots for the struggling Bulls is that they have one of the league's top rebounders in second-year center Wendell Carter Jr. The 6-foot-9, 270-pounder has had at least 12 or more boards in three of the past four games. Carter entered Sunday 15th in the NBA in rebounds per game at a 9.8 per game clip. -- Spears

This week: MIL, DET, MIA, @CHA


28. Washington Wizards
Record: 3-8
Week 4 ranking: 27

As if giving up 125 points to the Magic in regulation isn't reinforcement enough of what a defensive calamity the Wizards are, consider this: In their past 20 quarters, the Wizards have held an opponent under 25 points just twice. And adding Isaiah Thomas to it hasn't exactly helped. The Wizards' most used lineup -- Thomas, Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura -- has a defensive rating of 125.8 and a net rating of minus-24.7. That's, uh, real bad. -- Young

This week: SA, CHA, SAC


29. New York Knicks
Record: 3-10
Week 4 ranking: 30

There is no confirmation that the Knicks have petitioned the NBA to have their remaining games all played against the Mavericks. For a second consecutive week, New York had its most complete game of the season versus Dallas, this time at home against Mavs in Kristaps Porzingis' return to Madison Square Garden. Despite a one-point loss to Charlotte on Saturday, the turmoil that surrounded the organization last week can maybe, temporarily, be put to rest. While it has taken 13 games, head coach David Fizdale has finally found a lineup to his liking, inserting Taj Gibson into the starting lineup. The Gibson move has allowed Mitchell Robinson to provide the needed energy that the bench had been lacking. In the Dallas and Charlotte games, Robinson averaged 16.5 points and 10 rebounds in 24.5 minutes of action. -- Marks

This week: CLE, @PHI, SA, BKN


30. Golden State Warriors
Record: 2-12
Week 4 ranking: 28

Golden State's rankings free fall is complete, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few bright spots for the defending West champs. Eric Paschall scored a game-high 30 points at New Orleans on Sunday, and the 2019 second-round draft pick now has scored 30-plus points twice this season. The former Villanova forward is the first Warrior with at least two 30-point games in his rookie season since Stephen Curry (eight times in 2009-10). The last Warriors player not drafted in the first round to have at least two 30-point outings during his rookie season was Anthony Morrow in 2008-09. -- Spears

This week: @MEM, @DAL, @UTAH