NBA Power Rankings: Bulls Look Like Team To Be Reckoned With In 2016

The 2015 calendar year is in the books, but the NBA season is just getting to the good stuff.

As we enter 2016, the same usual players are atop the league. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers lead their respective conferences, while the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t far behind.

But a new team has emerged in the New Year: the Chicago Bulls.

After some growing pains under new head coach Fred Hoiberg, Chicago is starting to hit its stride — even with point guard Derrick Rose bouncing in and out of the lineup — thanks to some excellent play from Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler, who dropped 40 points in the second half in the Bulls’ win Sunday.

Who else is poised to make noise in 2016? Let’s break it down in our Week 10 NBA Power Rankings, which account for all games played through Sunday, Jan. 3.

1. Golden State Warriors (31-2): The Warriors still are the cream of the NBA crop, but Stephen Curry’s second injury in as many weeks is cause for mild concern. Last week: 1

2. San Antonio Spurs (29-6): San Antonio is back to dominating everyone after its Christmas Day slip-up against the Rockets. Last week: 2

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-9): LeBron James and Co. are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have begun to separate themselves from the rest of the Eastern Conference. Last week: 3

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-10): It’s early, but the Thunder look like legitimate title contenders if they can keep Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the floor. Last week: 4

5. Chicago Bulls (20-12): Have Hoiberg and the Bulls finally figured things out? They’ve won four in a row to vault into the East’s No. 2 seed. Last week: 10

6. Los Angeles Clippers (22-13): The Clippers are in the midst of a ridiculously easy stretch but have taken care of business with six consecutive wins. Last week: 11

7. Miami Heat (20-13): The stingy Heat defense has held its last two opponents to an average of 79 points to help Miami take over the No. 3 seed in the East. Last week: 5

8. Toronto Raptors (21-14): Strong play from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan wasn’t enough to prevent two losses to the Bulls in seven days. Last week: 6

9. Atlanta Hawks (21-14): Atlanta’s six-game winning streak quickly evaporated with losses in two of its last three games. Last week: 7

10. Indiana Pacers (19-14): The Pacers earned a quality win Monday over the Hawks but lost at home to the Bucks on Wednesday. Last week: 8

11. Dallas Mavericks (19-15): Dallas has lost two in a row, but beating the Warriors on Wednesday — even without Curry — makes this a successful week. Last week: 13

12. Orlando Magic (19-15): The Magic have lost two straight but don’t show signs of slowing down after an impressive 2015. Last week: 14

13. Boston Celtics (18-15): Losing to the Lakers and Nets at home is pretty much the worst week you can have. Last week: 15

14. Detroit Pistons (18-16): Just when it looked like the Pistons were firing on all cylinders, they went and lost four of their last five. Last week: 9

15. Memphis Grizzlies (18-17): The Grizzlies continue to tread water (5-5 in their last 10 games) but own the No. 6 seed in the West as of Sunday. Last week: 17

16. Charlotte Hornets (17-16): The Hornets’ only two wins since Dec. 19 have come over the Grizzlies and Lakers. Last week: 16

17. Utah Jazz (15-17): Utah has held its opponents under 100 points in four consecutive games and won three of those contests as a result. Last week: 20

18. Houston Rockets (16-19): On paper, the Rockets have lost four in a row, but they hung tough with the Hawks and Warriors this week and had to play the Spurs on Saturday. Last week: 12

19. Washington Wizards (15-17): The Wizards have dropped three of their last four to fall below .500 once again. Last week: 18

20. New York Knicks (16-19): Arron Afflalo turned back the clock Sunday to drop 38 points in an impressive win over the Hawks. Last week: 19

21. Portland Trail Blazers (15-21): Portland has won four of its last five games and somehow is two games out of a playoff spot in the West. Last week: 27

22. Milwaukee Bucks (14-21): Milwaukee is 5-15 on the road this season, and that’s after back-to-back road wins this week. Last week: 22

23. Sacramento Kings (13-20): The Kings scored 142 points (!!) against the Suns on Saturday to snap a three-game winning streak. Last week: 21

24. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-22): The Timberwolves got a late start on this season’s tankathon but are hitting their stride with losses in six of their last seven games. Last week: 26

25. Denver Nuggets (12-23): Denver is 1-9 in its last 10 games, with that sole win coming against the dumpster fire that is the Suns. Last week: 23

26. New Orleans Pelicans (11-22): More fun with the transitive property: On Saturday, the Pelicans beat the Mavericks, who beat the Warriors on Wednesday. So the Pelicans are better than the Warriors, right? Last week: 24

27. Phoenix Suns (12-25): The Suns scored 22 points in the entire first half Sunday against the Lakers and now have lost nine in a row. Even the Sixers can’t say that. Last week: 25

28. Brooklyn Nets (10-23): Brooklyn won more games than it lost this week. This is not a drill. Last week: 28

29. Los Angeles Lakers (8-27): Three of the Lakers’ eight wins have come in the last five days in what was a pretty solid week for the NBA’s three bottom-dwellers. Last week: 29

30. Philadelphia 76ers (3-33): The Sixers won another game this week! They also lost to the Clippers by 31 points, but we’re trying to be positive here. Last week: 30

Thumbnail photo via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg talks with Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) during a time out against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. Chicago defeated Toronto 115-113.

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