I really never anticipated Oklahoma City rising to the top of ESPN.com’s weekly NBA Power Rankings without Russell Westbrook.
Yet I’d say it’s a safe assumption that Kevin Durant isn’t terribly concerned with the crystal-ball projections coming from the committee (of one).
With Durant on course to become just the seventh player of all time to assemble a 31, 7 and 5 season -- averaging at least 31 points, seven boards and five dimes -- Oklahoma City has won seven straight games. It’s a streak that includes road wins over Houston and San Antonio and home wins over Golden State and Portland and has quickly restored calm in OKC after the Thunder went just 5-5 in the first 10 games in the wake of Westbrook’s third knee operation in the space of eight months.
The Thunder, in fact, rank as the only team this season with three winning streaks spanning at least six games. And Durant obviously couldn’t be hotter heading into Wednesday night’s visit to Miami, where a certain LeBron James will be thrust into the uncharacteristic position of playing from behind in the MVP race.
The Heat are back in the top five on this Power Rankings Monday, Phoenix is back in the top 10, and the Brooklyn Nets are the story in the East thanks to their 10-1 mark in 2014 and climb to No. 11, which is their highest position since the opening week of the season.
Durant and his Thunder, though, have hit the top of the charts for just the second time all season and are peering down at the rest of the league in our final batch of rankings for January -- even though Westbrook last played on Christmas. Consider it one more line, one more feat, for Durant's increasingly impressive MVP résumé.
This week's rankings were compiled, as always, with the usual clutch dishing that comes from ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau. Click here to rank the teams yourself until we return with a fresh 1-to-30 pulse take of the league.