The Denver Nuggets have won 10 of 12 on the way to first place in the Western Alliance, but it is the Indiana Pacers who’re the league’s hottest team at this time.

Together with their victory Sunday over the New York Knicks, the Pacers won their seventh straight match and became one of only five teams to successfully unite with the NBA’s 20-win club this season.

During the holidays, our board (ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, Tim MacMahon and Andre’ Snellings, The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring) is standing all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock which teams are playing with the best basketball today and which can be looking like name contenders.

Previous positions: Week 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | Two | 1 | Camp | off Season

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Center DeMarcus Cousins will return to Santa Cruz on Monday to practice with Warriors’ GLeague team for the next time. The four-time all star also played some light-hearted oneonone with Warriors teammate Kevin Durant throughout Saturday’s practice. It’s still uncertain when Cousins will be able to debut after having a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury in January.


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The Nuggets put three wins together ending with consecutive announcement successes over the Thunder and the Raptors. Nikola JokicSnellings


3.

The Raptors reasoned their trip out west banged-up. Kyle Lowry overlooked the final pair of games — losses in Portland and Denver — due to a marathon, whilst Pascal Siakam along with Fred VanVleet sat out on Sunday with back injuries. The Raps may take a little consolation in the yield of Lowry. After a shooting recession, the point shield shined at the Clippers and Golden State in back to back wins, converting 17 of 31 field goal attempts. — Arnovitz


4.

Most teams wouldn’t complain with a 2-1 week, but something felt different in regards to the Bucks’ narrow loss to Indiana this week, even when the Pacers held Giannis Antetokounmpo along with Khris Middleton to just 22 points combined. Antetokounmpo, specifically, took only six shots — minimal he’s attempted since January 20 17, when he left a game early because he had been under the elements.


5. Boston Celtics
Record: 18-11

The Celtics lost on Saturday into the Pistons to snap their series, but they’re still among the hottest team in the NBA at this time. Kyrie Irving is exerting a enormous effect on offense this season, ranking first in the NBA with an Offensive Real Plus Minus of all plus-4.44. –– Snellings


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Do not look now, however, the Pacers — winners of seven straight — will be the latest team in the league at the moment. Perhaps most striking: They began this string that the full four games prior to Victor Oladipo‘s return from injury. When Indiana went 0-7 in games, this would happen to be unthinkable last year.


7. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 18-10

Paul George has arguably become the Thunder’s MVP to date this season. In their 18 wins, George is averaging 25.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per match. George has been unstoppable this season when his shooter is still working and it is translating into team victory.


8. LosAngeles Lakers
Record: 18-12

It had been a ragged week for the Lakers, who saw LeBron James along with Lonzo Ball per record a tripledouble on Saturday’s triumph at Charlotte, but looked gassed in a loss on Sunday in Washington, where LeBron scored a season-low 1-3 points in three quarters. The Lakers close their roadtrip and will play the next eight games in , a stretch which may carry them well beyond New Year’s Day. — Arnovitz


9. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 20-11

Jimmy Butler proved to be the bellwether for the Sixers past week, even as they dropped both games he dropped to injury — rough home losses to Brooklyn and Indiana. Butler’s durability is vital because Philadelphia forfeited thickness to get him. Both Furkan Korkmaz, that started in Butler’s absence, and Wilson Chandler, who’s effectively substituted Dario Saric whilst the Sixers’ starting power forward, have struggled to produce consistently. — Arnovitz


10.

The reeling Clips own the league’s second-worst net evaluation in December (plus it has obtained a 56-point loss by the Bulls to keep manhunter from their cellar ). When asked who may grab the scoring slack for the wounded Lou Williams, that was lost into a hamstring injury from the Clippers’ triumph Monday night in Phoenix, coach Doc Rivers prophetically said,”no one.” Thus the Clippers have scored 97 points from 100 possessions in the three declines as. — Arnovitz


1 1. Houston Rockets
Record: 1414

James Harden scored 82 points on 40 field goal attempts over the previous two games, when he posted a pair of triple doubles in wins over Western Conference teams now in play off position. His performance in a nationally televised win over the Lakers — a recordbreaking fourth career 50-point triple-double — delivered an email which the MVP is going to be a force to be reckoned with this season. Harden has to transport the Rockets with Chris Paul struggling (12.6 points a match on 34.7 percent shooting as coming back from the hamstring strain).


12. Portland Trailblazers
Record: 16-13

Remember when Portland was after an 11 5 start in the Western Conference? The Blazers have been in eighth-place from the West after winning only five of the 13 games. So what’s wrong? One problem is the Blazers need scoring on their seat. The reserves of portland demonstrated some promise in a triumph over Toronto on Friday by scoring 5-8.


1-3. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 16-13

Memphis has to hope that giving Joakim Noah regular minutes helps Marc Gasol refresh. He played an All-NBA amount in November, but he dropped 37.2 minutes , which seemingly have taken a toll on Gasol’s 33-year-old legs. His stats have plummeted in December, when Gasol has dropped only 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 35.1% from the ground.


14. Sacramento Kings
Record: 16-13

Point shield De’Aaron Fox is a historical Most Improved Player candidate. Fox has scored 25 points in each of their previous four games and four of their six that were previous. The speedster has had three steals in 50% of the eight games in December.


15. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 15-13

Good news to the Mavs: Bench leader J.J. Barea plans to come back Tuesday in Denver after missing the previous two games because of left shoulder sprain he suffered while observing along the way back into the seat during a time out. The Mavs are 0-3 in games Barea missed this season. “He’s been playing at such a high grade,” Dirk Nowitzki explained. “Obviously, he has been overlooked .” Bad news: The Mavs (2-10 on road) are led out on a trip to play with the Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors and Trail Blazers.


16. Detroit Pistons
Record: 14-13

When it knocked off the Celtics detroit had a triumph worse than anybody from the NBA Saturday. The Pistons entered that contest having lost six in a row despite Blake Griffin averaging 28 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists on that stretch on 49% shooting. Since Detroit will be on the street for a few of its next eight games, the victory was nice.


17. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 15-16

Depth is still a problem for the Pelicans. Only the Rockets get less chair scoring than New Orleans, which averages only 29.6 chair points per match despite Julius Randle (19.3 points, 9.5 rebounds per match ) establishing himself as a early Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Injuries are a huge aspect of the problem, for example a ankle sprain for Nikola Mirotic that has Randle serving as a fill in newcomer now.


18. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 15-15

Just when the Spurs start looking like a team which plans to produce the playoffs for a season they blow a 21-point guide? So sanantonio had assembled by margins of 13, 13, 25 and 38 points. The Spurs will be the only team from the league to win and lose by 38 points this season.


19. Utah Jazz
Record: 14 16

The Jazz are 4 1 if Jae Crowder starts and 10 15 if he really doesn’t. The line up of Crowder at power forward along with the four every-night starters features an internet evaluation of plus-13.7 points per 100 possessions. Coach Quin Snyder uses that band to play matches consistently, but he was hesitant to commit to it for a starting line up, most regularly going with Derrick Favors in power forward despite that group’s problems generating offense (101.4 points per 100 possessions in 2013 ).


20. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 1415

Twotime all star shield Kemba Walker has chilled off offensively after starting off the season among the league’s latest scorers. Walker has made 32 percent of his field goal attempts over the previous six games. He missed 11 of 13 shots in a loss from the Lakers. Perhaps more scoring out of Malik Monk and newcomer Miles Bridges usually takes some scoring pressure off Walker. — Spears


2 1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 13-16

Using all the Wolves coming up empty from the Warriors, Kings and Suns, it was a winless West Coast excursion for Minnesota this past week. The club is currently in second-to-last place at the West, only before Phoenix — a less-than-ideal reality considering how much better than expected Derrick Rose has played this season. — Herring


22. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 13 18

The Nets extended their winning streak since March 2015, the eve in their final playoff appearance. All the while, the bugaboo of closure losses has passed, with Brooklyn on nail-biters’ happy end, for example a win in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Together with four of their next five at home — that their highway date at Chicago — the Nets have a chance. — Arnovitz


2-3. Orlando Magic
Record: 1415

The Magic are quietly developing a potentially elite defensive frontline into the near future in newcomer centre Mo Bamba and second year power forward Jonathan Isaac. The duo has combined for 34 total combined steals and blocks within the previous six games that they’ve played in together, for example 15 over the previous two, despite Bamba. — Snellings


24. Miami Heat
Record: 13-16

Heat are getting to be the team that no body wishes to face, with defending wings which funnel opponents to a standard big-man-centric defensive back lineup of rim guards. Their games are awful, and they’re still below .500 over the year, but they’ve won four of six games of the Western Conference road swing to get a bit of momentum ahead of the following tough week including games from the Rockets and Bucks. — Snellings


25. Washington Wizards
Record: 12-18

Wizards stars John Wall along with Bradley Beal played great ball along with veteran Paul Pierce through the 2014 15 season. While Wall and Beal are old, perhaps they can find yourself a veteran boost from the addition of new comer forward Trevor Ariza (we will not get into all the spins and turns of that bargain ). The 15-year NBA veteran won a 2009 NBA championship with the Lakers. — Spears


26. Ny Knicks
Record: 9-22

The Knox Watch is on in nyc, as newcomer Kevin Knox has moved to the starting line up and also is averaging 21.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 3-pointers per match throughout his past three outings. The Knicks are rigorously on pace to complete from the lottery and also young players like Knox’s growth is overriding well beyond their record this season. — Snellings


27. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 7 23

Tristan Thompson may not look to be an essential offensive cog, but given how inefficient Cleveland is the Cavs have the second-worst effective field-goal percentage in the league — there is a case to be made that he is. His offensive rebounds bring about some of Cleveland’s most valuable offense (tied for ninth in second-chance points per match ). He could miss a month today, though testing the young Cavs. — Herring


28. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 6-23

The Hawks gave up 387 points within a 0-3 week, concluding on Sunday with a 144-127 loss at Brooklyn. It has been a rough December for Trae Young, who’s 5-for-25 from outside the arc to the month, while still averaging 5.8 assists a match against 4.2 turnovers. On the list of 76 players averaging at least 12 shots per match this season, Young ranks last in authentic shooting percentage in 47.4. — Arnovitz


2-9. Phoenix Suns
Record: 6-24

Landing swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. Could wind up being a boost for the Suns. Phoenix has energy acquired a who’s athletic can reach 3-pointers, is a very long defender and may improve his scoring average far from Bradley Beal and John Wall. The battle to the Suns will be dividing playing time between Oubre and fellow small forward Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and newcomer Mikal Bridges. — Spears


30. Chicago Bulls
Record: 7 23

Together with Jabari Parker from Chicago’s turning, and Zach LaVine missing at least some time because of an ankle injury, it’s worth seeing exactly that which impact their absences have on the Bulls’ defense. Those two were regularly the poor links on D of the team , especially while playing. So it may not be coincidence that the club has held its past two competitors into less than 100 points. — Herring