Marc J. Spears
ExpertNBA power rankings: Thunderous applause awaits league's hottest team22 minutes agoThe Oklahoma City Thunder is the latest NBA team to make their first appearance this season atop the Yahoo! Sports NBA power rankings.The Thunder clinched this week's top spot after a 107-93 win
over the San Antonio Spurs, who were without Manu Ginobili
on Monday night. Oklahoma City became the first NBA team to reach 20 wins this season and has won 11 straight.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-4, previous ranking: second): Before the Miami showdown on Christmas, the Thunder have a challenging back-to-back this week on the road against Atlanta and Minnesota.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (18-6, previous ranking: fourth): The Clippers have won 10 straight. More wins likely on horizon against New Orleans, Sacramento and Phoenix.
3. San Antonio Spurs (19-7, previous ranking: first): The Spurs have lost three of their past four games after being ranked first in these rankings last week. Doesn't get easier with game at Denver on Tuesday.
4. New York Knicks (18-6, previous ranking: third): Injured forward Amar'e Stoudemire could make season debut by weekend after taking part in practices with NBA Development League Erie.
5. Golden State Warriors (16-8, previous ranking: seventh): While Stephen Curry is having a great season, David Lee
also deserves credit for Warriors' surge with double-double play.
6. Miami Heat (15-6, previous ranking: sixth): Dwyane Wade
is improving as he is averaging 21.4 points per game in December after 17.1 per game in November.
7. Memphis Grizzlies (16-6, previous ranking: fifth): Grizzlies recovered from three-game skid by winning past two. No one on Memphis' bench averages more than seven points.
8. Atlanta Hawks (14-7, previous ranking: eighth): General manager Danny Ferry has no interest in trading forward Josh Smith
, sources say. Smith is averaging team-high 16.6 points.
9. Chicago Bulls (13-10, previous ranking: 10th): The inconsistent Bulls hold a slim lead over the Bucks in the Central Division. This week they host Boston and are on the road against New York and Atlanta.
10. Indiana Pacers (13-11, previous ranking: 19th): Paul George having a breakthrough month averaging 20.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 steals and a block in December.
11. Brooklyn Nets (13-10, previous ranking: 11th): Nets make first visit to Madison Square Garden representing Brooklyn on Wednesday. Last regular-season meeting with New York on Jan. 21.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (12-10, previous ranking: 15th): Bucks have told guard Brandon Jennings, a restricted free agent next summer, they plan on matching an offer sheet he could sign.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-10, previous ranking: 16th): Give point guard Ricky Rubio some time to get his rust off before he returns to his amazing form as a rookie.
14. Denver Nuggets (13-12, previous ranking: 17th): Nuggets look like they are turning it around after winning three of their past four. They host the recently struggling Spurs on Tuesday.
15. Utah Jazz (13-12, previous ranking: ninth): The hard-to-figure Jazz have split their last 10 games. Mounting losses could cost them later when Lakers and Mavericks start winning.
16. Boston Celtics (12-11, previous ranking: 14th): Paul Pierce is leading the Celtics in scoring, but is also averaging lowest field-goal percentage (41.4) since the 2003-04 season.
17. Houston Rockets (12-12, previous ranking: 20th): "Linsanity" might not be the same anymore, but Jeremy Lin has bragging rights
over the Knicks with 2-0 record this season.
18. Philadelphia 76ers (12-12, previous ranking: 12th): The Sixers have dropped three straight and four of their past five. Elton Brand faces old team Tuesday when the Sixers visit Dallas.
19. Portland Trail Blazers (11-12, previous ranking: 21st): The Blazers are showing life after winning three straight. Damon Lillard has no challenger for Rookie of the Year so far.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (11-14, previous ranking: 18th): Good news for Lakers: Pau Gasol expected to return Tuesday versus Charlotte. Steve Nash could return at Golden State on Saturday.
21. Orlando Magic (11-13, previous ranking: 22nd): Magic have won three straight and four of their last five games. Orlando can reach .500 with wins over Washington and Toronto this week.
22. Dallas Mavericks (11-13, previous ranking: 13th): The Mavericks have dropped three straight. The reigning champion Heat make their lone visit Thursday.
23. Phoenix Suns (10-15, previous ranking: 26th): The Suns have won three straight after losing seven in a row. Struggling Charlotte coming to town Wednesday.
24. Sacramento Kings (7-17, previous ranking: 23rd): Kings have dropped four straight. DeMarcus Cousins has talent to be NBA's top offensive center without drama.
25. Charlotte Bobcats (7-16, previous ranking: 25th): Ex-Laker Ramon Sessions returns to Los Angeles on Tuesday with NBA-worst 11-game losing streak in hand.
26. Detroit Pistons (7-20, previous ranking: 24th): Pistons are actively shopping forward Austin Daye
, a source said. Daye averaged just 2.3 points in six games.
27. Toronto Raptors (6-19, previous ranking: 29th): The Raptors started December 0-6 before winning their past two without injured forward Andrea Bargnani.
28. New Orleans Hornets (5-18, previous ranking: 27th): Rookie Anthony Davis
has averaged 12.5 points and six rebounds since returning from ankle injury.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-20, previous ranking: 28th): Cavaliers have dropped three straight since beating the Lakers. Young Cleveland could use some veteran talent.
30. Washington Wizards (3-18, previous ranking: 30th): Wiz can't catch a break. Guard John Wall said he has a "50-50" chance his left knee will respond when swelling goes down.