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NBA POWER RANKINGS_ WHO IS PUTTING THE LEAGUE ON NOTICE

The 2021 season is not an ordinary one in the NBA. After the coronavirus and the wrecking of every 2020 plan, pro sports had to make adjustments, and the NBA was no different, finishing the season in a bubble after a four-month layoff. The Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, were crowned champions, with Miami, Portland, Denver, and Phoenix showing they can be a problem. At the same time, the Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks fell short of lofty expectations. The 2021 season was always going to be unique in setup and approach, and so far, it has held up nicely, albeit with a few bumps. The coronavirus is an ever-constant threat that must be kept at bay while managing player egos as grown men and as stars on a global platform. Social and racial justice have also been at the heart of sports, and it is in considering all this that we take a look at the season that has been so far. As this unusual but very entertaining season roars on, sports betting is all the more exciting and thrilling, and if you do not believe me, you can ask the guy who won an 11-leg same-game parlay last week on the Celtics v. 76ers game.

So this season, most of the teams with a reputation have come out swinging, with the Lakers showing that despite their limitations in certain areas, they can undo anyone on any given night when their two superstars bring their A-game. The Clippers are not to be outshined just down the hall, with a Paul George playing with a chip on his shoulder while Kawhi Leonard, in usual funny man style, is going quietly about his business. Both teams share the best record in the conference and league at 13-4. The Utah Jazz (12-4) are on an 8-game win streak, totally obliterating the Golden State Warriors in their last outing. Below these three is a Western Conference broth of teams just looking to gain traction, consistency, or find an identity, not including the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, and strangely enough, the New Orleans Pelicans. In the East, Philadelphia is emerging to be the lion on the mountain, as the highly-touted Brooklyn Nets continue to find ways to make their star-studded cast work. The Celtics looked solid until Jayson Tatum went down, and the Bucks have looked shaky after a strong start to the season. The big surprises, however, this season have been the New York Knicks (8-10) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-8), who have been playing above what pundits could predict for their young teams.

The Brooklyn Nets went out and tried to break the NBA by getting James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, all on one team, but the early returns have so far promised only great offense and not much to scare about on defense. As always, the San Antonio Spurs are somehow finding a way to stay in the mix.