2021 NBA Power Rankings: Where do Celtics stand among East elites?

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Buckle up for a wild ride, NBA fans. We've already seen some eye-opening developments over the first few weeks, from the New York Knicks actually playing good basketball to the Raptors dwelling in the cellar of the East.While it's too early to declare contenders and pretenders, we have enough of a sample size to reset the NBA hierarchy as 2021 gets underway. Behold, the first NBA Power Rankings of the New Year.

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1/30

Last two rankings: 27, 27

The Celtics may object to this ranking after Detroit nearly swept Boston last weekend. But the Pistons' roster still makes no sense, as evidenced by Dwane Casey calling plays for Mason Plumlee in crunch time. Saddiq Bey looks good, though.

2/30

Last two rankings: 26, 26

The Wolves go as Karl-Anthony Towns goes -- and Towns went down in the second game of the season. Minnesota has one of the NBA's worst point differentials and isn't playing a lick of defense. It could be a long season.

3/30

Last two rankings: 19, 17

Poor Memphis. Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones have stepped up in Ja Morant's absence, but as long as Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are out due to injury, the Grizzlies are clawless on offense.

4/30

Last two rankings: 20, 20

Welcome to the season of bizarre home and away splits. The Wizards are 0-4 in Washington so far but have won two of their last three on the road. Bradley Beal (60 points against Philly on Wednesday) has been a scoring machine with Russell Westbrook drawing some attention away from opposing defenses.

5/30

Last two rankings: 28, 29

Darius Bazley has been a bright spot for the Thunder, who will be very bad this season but should be tougher to play against than your typical tanker.

6/30

Last two rankings: 24, 23

The Hornets are the fast food of the NBA, with LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward (a career-high 44 points Wednesday night) supplying the empty calories. They're fun to watch but have no depth, can't play defense and turn the ball over a ton.

7/30

Last two rankings: 9, 8

The Raptors are better than this, but there's still real cause for concern in Toronto Tampa. Pascal Siakam hasn't bounced back from whatever plagued him in the NBA bubble, leaving Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet to carry the team. Toronto needs more from Siakam and OG Anunoby or this team isn't going anywhere in the East.

8/30

Last two rankings: 25, 25

The Bulls are 4-2 after allowing more than 120 points in their first three games (all losses) and Coby White has been balling. Billy Donovan's team ranks 27th in the league in points allowed and 29th in turnovers per game, though.

9/30

Last two rankings: 23, 24

The standard-bearer for dysfunctional NBA franchises is living up to its billing. The Kings dropped three straight last week, leading the fathers of Marvin Bagley III and De'Aaron Fox to demand Bagley be traded on Twitter. Only in Sacramento.

10/30

Last two rankings: 21, 21

San Antonio dropped four straight last week and lost Derrick White to a fractured toe. Not ideal. On the bright side, Becky Hammon made history as the first woman to coach an NBA game after Gregg Popovich was ejected from Wednesday's contest.

11/30

Last two rankings: 30, 30

How 'bout them Cavs! Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are averaging nearly 40 points and 10 assists as one of the NBA's more promising backcourt duos. Cleveland will come back to earth, but the play of Sexton and Garland is a great sign for Cavs fans.

12/30

Last two rankings: 29, 28

You can thank Tom Thibodeau's coaching and Julius Randle's scorching start (23.1 points, 12 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game) for the Knicks' early success. It won't last, but Knicks fans will take what they can get.

13/30

Last two rankings: 17, 18

John Wall put up 50 points over his first two games, and Christian Wood looks like a star in the making. But the James Harden saga will continue to hang over this team until the NBA trade deadline if he's not moved before then.

14/30

Last two rankings: 12, 13

Steph Curry's 62-point explosion against Portland was more about Steph Curry being awesome than the Blazers failing on defense. But Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. were brought in to shore up that end of the floor, and that hasn't happened yet.

15/30

Last two rankings: 11, 9

Kelly Oubre Jr. has been as bad as Curry has been good, missing 28 of his first 30 3-point attempts. For the sake of NBA fans everywhere, let's hope Curry stays healthy so we can continue to watch him dazzle opponents.

16/30

Last two rankings: 13, 12

Luka Doncic (19.5% from 3-point range over his first six games) has struggled to find his shot during the Mavs' rocky start. He dropped a triple-double on Monday night, though, so don't expect Cool Hand Luka to stay cold for long.

17/30

Last two rankings: 7, 7

Nikola Jokic leads the NBA in assists out of the gate and has been spectacular so far. Denver's role players? Not so much. This team will straighten things out, but the Nuggets may want to consider bolstering their second unit.

18/30

Last two rankings: 16, 19

Despite a last-minute collapse to the Pacers on Monday, Stan Van Gundy's new-look squad is off to an impressive start and ranks fifth in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Brandon Ingram might be the best player no one's talking about in the West.

19/30

Last two rankings: 18, 16

It's tough to get an early read on the Hawks, who haven't played any serious competition outside the Nets. But we can be sure that Trae Young will fill up the stat sheet, especially with Rajon Rondo out due to a knee injury.

20/30

Last two rankings: 22, 22

Just when Markelle Fultz appeared to have it figured out, he tears his ACL. Devastating. We've seen this script from the Magic before. The hot start may continue for a bit, but they'll fade back to .500 in due time.

21/30

Last two rankings: 10, 11

The Jazz beat the Spurs by 21 then promptly lost to the Kevin Durant-less Nets by 34 on Tuesday night. We may see more teams ride a similar roller coaster as they adjust to regular-season travel in the COVID-19 era.

22/30

Last two rankings: 4, 6

The Nets are 2-4 over their last six games with losses to the Hornets, Grizzlies, Hawks and Wizards. Kevin Durant is out until at least Jan. 12 due to COVID-19 protocols. Having fun yet, Steve Nash?

23/30

Last two rankings: 5, 5

See Jazz, Utah. The Heat got pummeled in a 47-point loss to the Bucks only to beat them by nine the following night. Jimmy Butler still doesn't look right after returning from an ankle injury and Erik Spoelstra's decision to start Tyler Herro (26 total points over his last three games) has backfired out of the gate.

24/30

Last two rankings: 15, 15

T.J. Warren's injury is a tough blow for a Pacers team that's played really well under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren. But if Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brodgon continue their strong starts, Indy could make some headway in the East.

25/30

Last two rankings: 6, 4

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown officially deserve consideration among the best duos in the NBA, while rookie Payton Pritchard (aka "Fast PP" aka "P-Rabbit" aka "8 Mile"has been a revelation.

That's the good news. The reality is that the Celtics still don't have a ton of depth and will need Marcus Smart and Jeff Teague to stay healthy if they want to keep pace in the East without Kemba Walker.

 

Forsberg: What's trending up, down for C's so far this season?
26/30

Last two rankings: 14, 14

Is it early? Yes. Did the Suns win three in a row against the Pelicans, Jazz and Nuggets, and are they allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA? Also yes. If Phoenix continues to play defense at a high level, this team is a legitimate playoff contender.

27/30

Last two rankings: 2, 2

We're not used to seeing the Bucks lose regular-season games, but Giannis Antetokounmpo will need time to adjust to his new supporting cast, as his underwhelming stat line of 26.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game suggests. (Yes, that's actually an underwhelming stat line for the reigning NBA MVP.)

28/30

Last two rankings: 8, 10

The Sixers have enjoyed a cupcake schedule out of the gate, but they still get credit for taking care of business. Joel Embiid's strong start should encourage Philly fans, as should offseason pickup Seth Curry, who's shooting 59.5% percent from beyond the arc.

29/30

Last two rankings: 3, 3

Paul George says he's heard "a lot of chirping" about his struggles in the bubble, and he's taken those chirps to heart by averaging 25.1 points over his first seven games. A more motivated George can only help the Clippers as they try to find their identity under Ty Lue.

30/30

Last two rankings: 1, 1

LeBron James' minutes per game are down slightly from last season, and that's a good thing. The more Frank Vogel can keep James fresh while integrating newcomers Dennis Schröder and Montrezl Harrell, the better off the Lakers will be come playoff time.

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