NBA Power Rankings — Our expert panel unveils its rankings for Week 18

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The Cavs are back! Back into the top 10 of our rankings, that is.

While one game might not be enough to call the Cleveland Cavaliers’ trade deadline makeover a roaring success, a blowout win over their Eastern Conference rival, the Boston Celtics, could be the spark LeBron James & Co. have been searching for.

Speaking of the Celtics, they just lost their perch atop the East — and accompanying top-three ranking on our list — to the red-hot Toronto Raptors, winners of five straight games.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, it’s the Houston Rockets holding off the Golden State Warriors once again for the top spot. But look out for the Utah Jazz, who have won nine straight games and have positioned themselves back into playoff contention.

Every week throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, Amin Elhassan and Ramona Shelburne, The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring) will rank the league’s 30 teams from top to bottom, with research notes on each team provided by ESPN Stats & Information.

Previous: Week 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

1. Houston Rockets
2017-18 record: 42-13

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1   4-0 @MIN, SAC

In Friday’s win against the Nuggets, Clint Capela finished with 23 points and a career-high 25 rebounds, giving him the first 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career and the first by a Rockets player since Dwight Howard in January 2016. Capela’s 25 rebounds are the most by any player in a 20-point game this season. — Jose De Leon


2. Golden State Warriors
2017-18 record: 43-13

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2   2-1 PHX, @POR

Draymond Green picked up technical fouls in Thursday’s game against the Mavericks and in Tuesday’s game against the Thunder, and now has an NBA-high 14 techs for the season. With two more technical fouls, he will receive an automatic one-game suspension. –– Jose De Leon


3. Toronto Raptors
2017-18 record: 39-16

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4   3-0 MIA, @CHI

The Raptors have won five straight games in dominating fashion. Each of their wins has been by at least 15 points, the longest streak in franchise history. They join the Warriors (six straight) as the only teams to win five straight games by at least 15 points each this season. — Jose De Leon


4. Boston Celtics
2017-18 record: 40-18

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3   1-3 LAC

The Celtics retired Paul Pierce’s No. 34 on Sunday. It was the 22nd number retired by the Celtics, the most by any franchise. Pierce is a 10-time All-Star who won the 2008 NBA Finals MVP for Boston, and his 24,021 points are the second most in franchise history behind John Havlicek. — Michael Schwartz


5. San Antonio Spurs
2017-18 record: 35-22

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6   1-1 @UTAH, @DEN

The Spurs kicked off their annual Rodeo Road Trip with a win against the Suns and a loss to the Warriors, and are 13-16 on the road this season. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, San Antonio finished each of the previous 20 seasons with a winning record on the road, the longest streak of its kind in NBA history. The next-longest streak is 12 seasons by the Lakers (1979-80 through 1990-91). –– Jose De Leon


6. Cleveland Cavaliers
2017-18 record: 33-22

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11   3-1 @OKC

The Cavaliers traded away six players at the trade deadline, tied for the most on any trade deadline in the past 30 years (2008 Cavaliers). The six players they traded away have an average age of 30.7 while the four players they received — Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill and Rodney Hood — have an average age of 27.0. Those players combined to score 49 points in Sunday’s win in Boston. –– Jose De Leon


7. Minnesota Timberwolves
2017-18 record: 35-24

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5   1-2 HOU, LAL

Jimmy Butler made his return to United Center on Friday to face the Bulls. He scored 38 points, one point shy of the most in a player’s first game against his former team, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Kevin Durant (2016-17), Stephon Marbury (1999-00) and Danny Ainge (1989-90) each scored 39 in their first game against their former teams. — Matt Williams


8. Milwaukee Bucks
2017-18 record: 31-24

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9   2-1 ATL, DEN

Since becoming interim head coach, Joe Prunty has led the Bucks to an 8-2 record in his first 10 games. That is the best 10-game record by a head coach to take over a team during the season since P.J. Carlesimo went 9-1 in his first 10 games with the Nets after taking over for Avery Johnson in 2012-13. –– Matt Williams


9. Oklahoma City Thunder
2017-18 record: 32-25

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7   2-1 CLE, @MEM

Not only is Paul George leading the league in steals, he also leads in deflections by a wide margin. According to NBA Advanced Stats, George’s 4.5 deflections per game are 0.6 more than anyone else. The gap between George and second-place Robert Covington is the same as the gap between Covington and Victor Oladipo, who ranks eighth. To go along with a career-high 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc, George has been the NBA’s best two-way player this season. –– Micah Adams


10. Washington Wizards
2017-18 record: 32-24

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8   2-2 @NY

The Wizards went 3-6 in the nine games before John Wall’s injury. They have since won six of their past eight games to head into next week fourth in the East. — Michael Schwartz


11. Portland Trail Blazers
2017-18 record: 31-26

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10   2-2 GS

Damian Lillard scored 50 points in 29 minutes against the Kings on Friday. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he joined Klay Thompson and teammate CJ McCollum — who did it on Feb. 1 — as the only players in NBA history to score 50 points in fewer than 30 minutes played. — Jose De Leon


12. Denver Nuggets
2017-18 record: 30-26

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12   2-1 SA, @MIL

The Nuggets snapped a seven-game road losing streak in Saturday’s win at Phoenix. Before that victory, Denver’s previous road win came on Dec. 23 at Golden State. — Michael Schwartz


13. Indiana Pacers
2017-18 record: 32-25

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14   2-1 @BKN

Victor Oladipo’s All-Star season continued in Sunday’s win over the Knicks. He recorded his 10th 30-point game of the season, one more than he had in his first four seasons combined. — Michael Schwartz


14. Philadelphia 76ers
2017-18 record: 28-25

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15   3-0 NY, MIA

Joel Embiid recorded his seventh 20-point, 15-rebound game of the season in Saturday’s win over the Clippers, Philly’s third straight victory. According to Elias research, that’s the most by a 76ers player before the All-Star break since Charles Barkley had 11 in 1989-90. — Michael Schwartz


15. Utah Jazz
2017-18 record: 28-28

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17   4-0 SA, PHX

The NBA’s hottest team will go for its 10th straight win on Monday on the second night of a back-to-back against the Spurs. The Jazz have battled back to .500 after dropping to 19-28 following a loss to the Hawks back on Jan. 22. In the thick of the playoff hunt, BPI gave Utah just a 7 percent chance of making the playoffs after that loss to Atlanta. — Micah Adams


16. Miami Heat
2017-18 record: 30-26

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13   1-2 @TOR, @PHI

Dwyane Wade scored just three points in his first game back with the Heat. He is Miami’s all-time leader in points and the only player with more than 10,000 points with the franchise. In his return, Miami snapped a season-high five-game losing streak. — Jose De Leon


17. Detroit Pistons
2017-18 record: 27-28

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18   2-2 NO, ATL

The honeymoon is over, as the Pistons have dropped two straight following the five-game win streak that coincided with the trade for Blake Griffin. Detroit was blitzed down the stretch of Sunday’s loss to the Hawks, giving up 21 points in the final five minutes. Although Griffin scored 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting over that stretch, the rest of his teammates combined to shoot just 1-for-7. It was about time the Pistons cooled off, as before Sunday they had posted an offensive rating of 151.6 in 11 clutch-time minutes in February. — Micah Adams


18. LA Clippers
2017-18 record: 28-26

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19   2-1 @BKN, @BOS

DeAndre Jordan recorded his 48th career 20-rebound game on Saturday against the 76ers. That’s second most over the span of Jordan’s 10-year career, behind only Dwight Howard. — Michael Schwartz


19. New Orleans Pelicans
2017-18 record: 29-26

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16   1-2 @DET, LA

Anthony Davis posted a monster stat line on Saturday against the Nets: 44 points, 17 rebounds and 6 steals. According to the Elias Sports Bureau research, Davis joined Bob McAdoo as the only players since steals became official in 1973-74 to record multiple 40-point, 15-rebound and 5-steal games in their careers. –– Matt Williams


20. Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 record: 23-32

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20   2-1 @NO, @MIN

Isaiah Thomas scored 22 points, two shy of his season high, and shot a season-best 58.3 percent from the floor in his Lakers debut on Saturday. He played the entire fourth quarter after never doing so with the Cavaliers. — Jose De Leon


21. Charlotte Hornets
2017-18 record: 23-33

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21   0-4 @ORL

Kemba Walker was selected as Kristaps Porzingis’ All-Star Game replacement. He becomes the first Hornets player with consecutive All-Star Game selections since Glen Rice made it three straight years from 1996 to 1998. — Jose De Leon


22. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 record: 19-36

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24   1-2 ORL, TOR

Friday’s game against Minnesota certainly seemed to mean a little more for former Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine. LaVine scored the final 11 points for the Bulls, outscoring the entire Timberwolves team in clutch time, on his way to a season-high 35 points. — Michael Schwartz


23. Brooklyn Nets
2017-18 record: 19-38

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23   0-3 LAC, IND

Good news for the Cavs: The Nets have lost nine of their past 10 games. According to BPI, their pick owed to Cleveland via Boston has a better than 9 percent chance at being No. 1 overall and a 50 percent shot at being in the top five. — Michael Schwartz


24. New York Knicks
2017-18 record: 23-34

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22   0-3 @PHI, WAS

It’s definitely tanking season in the Big Apple. Sunday’s loss dropped the Knicks to 1-8 without Kristaps Porzingis, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, and New York has now lost a season-high six straight games overall. — Michael Schwartz


25. Atlanta Hawks
2017-18 record: 18-39

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25   2-2 @MIL, @DET

The Hawks have won three of five — and in doing so, they gave up pole position in the race for the No. 1 draft pick. This is shaping up to be the closest tank race in NBA history. A whopping seven teams are within a game of the worst record in the NBA. According to BPI, the Hawks now have the third-best odds of getting the top pick in the draft at 16 percent. — Micah Adams


26. Orlando Magic
2017-18 record: 18-37

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30   3-1 @CHI, CHA

How surprising was the Magic’s three-game winning streak that the Bucks snapped on Saturday? Between Dec. 8 and Jan. 30, Orlando also won three games … while losing 20. — Michael Schwartz


27. Memphis Grizzlies
2017-18 record: 18-37

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26   0-3 OKC

A rough week offensively for the Grizzlies, who scored 92 points on Sunday but actually snapped a streak of three straight games scoring fewer than 90. Since Feb. 4, Memphis has averaged a paltry 85.5 points per 100 possessions, nearly nine points worse than anyone else over that stretch. Starved for consistent playmaking without Mike Conley, the Grizzlies averaged a league-high 19 turnovers per game while finishing with more turnovers than assists over their past four games. — Micah Adams


28. Dallas Mavericks
2017-18 record: 18-39

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27   1-3 SAC

In Saturday’s win against the Lakers, the Mavericks scored 130 points, their most in a regulation game at home since Nov. 21, 2014, also against the Lakers. Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 22 points in the win and became the sixth member of the 50,000-minute club earlier in the week. — Jose De Leon


29. Sacramento Kings
2017-18 record: 17-38

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28   1-2 @DAL, @HOU

Monday marks the 18th anniversary of Vince Carter’s epic slam dunk contest triumph in 2000. The 41-year-old has as many dunks this season (five) as 22-year-old rookie Justin Jackson, who started at small forward for the Kings on Sunday. The season he won the dunk contest, Carter posted a career-high 133 dunks. — Micah Adams


30. Phoenix Suns
2017-18 record: 18-39

The Suns face the Warriors in the first of four meetings this season on Monday. The Suns, who have the third-toughest remaining schedule, according to BPI, have one fewer game remaining against the Warriors than against the bottom 10 teams in the NBA. — Michael Schwartz



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