NBA Power Rankings: The Rockets lift off to the top
In our first edition of NBA power rankings, we recap the happenings of the very early NBA season. After two weeks of NBA basketball, we have seen a lot of sloppy play from many of the preseason’s top teams, including the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards, and Minnesota Timberwolves. We’ve also seen a few surprise teams come forward that may end up being playoff teams, or better than anticipated at seasons end: Orlando, Milwaukee, LA Clippers, and Memphis. Every week for the remainder of the season, I will use the latest trends, news, and analysis from around the league to provide a weekly NBA power rankings. Lets dive headfirst into this week’s edition.
30.) Atlanta Hawks (1-6), 29.) Chicago Bulls (1-4), 28.) Dallas (1-6), 27.) Phoenix Suns (2-4) 26.) New York Knicks (2-3), 25.) Sacramento Kings (1-5), 24.) Los Angeles Lakers (2-4) 23.) Brooklyn Nets (3-4) 22.) Indiana Pacers (3-3) 21.) Philadelphia 76ers (2-3) 20.) Miami Heat (2-3) 19.) Charlotte Hornets (3-3) 18.) Denver Nuggets (3-3) 17.) Utah Jazz (3-3) 16.) New Orleans Pelicans (3-3) 15.) Orlando Magic (4-2) 14.) Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3) 13.) Minnesota Timberwolves (3-3) 12.) Washington Wizards (4-2) 11.) Portland Trail Blazers (4-2)
10. Detroit Pistons (5-2)
One of the surprise teams thus far early into the NBA season is the Detroit Pistons. With three quality wins last win over the Timberwolves, Clippers and Warriors, the Pistons look to be greatly improved early in the season. Potential most improved player Tobias Harris has been playing out of his mind, shooting an incredible 46.3% on 5.9 3-pointers per game so far. If the young core of this team continues to develop, we may be looking at a top-5 team in the East.
9. Toronto Raptors (3-2)
One of the top teams in the East last year, the Raptors look to be much the same this year, having virtually the same roster from a year ago. So far they’ve beat three teams in the bottom-10 and played both the Spurs and Warriors very closely in their losses. The upcoming week has the Raptors playing three teams ranked lower than them, so we’ll see if Toronto can remain in the top ten.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-4)
What is defense? This is the question everyone has been wondering about the Cavs early this season. The Cavs have dropped three straight and are giving up an average of 110.1 points per game. Could this be a problem of too many new faces trying to find a fit together, or is this a product of aging stars being past their primes? I’m leaning towards the former, as the Cavaliers are notorious for starting slow and kicking it into high gear when needed.
7. Boston Celtics (4-2)
After starting the season by losing Gordon Hayward to a horrific leg injury, the Celtics have rebounded to win four straight games behind rookie Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving’s hot start. One encouraging statistic through six games is that Boston ranks in the top five in defense despite losing Avery Bradley, who was named to the All-Defensive First Team last season.
6. Milwaukee Bucks (4-2)
With early MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the charge, the Milwaukee Bucks have started the season with a 4-2 record. However, if the Bucks want to maintain their early season success, everybody else not named Giannis has to take some of the load off his massive shoulders. Giannis is posting unreal numbers to start the season (34.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG).
5. Los Angeles Clippers (4-1)
After the loss of Chris Paul, the Clippers were expected to take a step back this season. This, so far, has not been the case with the Clippers only suffering one loss through the first two weeks. Perhaps an overlooked loss was the injury to Milos Teodosic (out indefinitely), who was projected to be a Rookie of the Year contender and potential Chris Paul replacement. The Clippers have a tough road the next two weeks, so we’re about to see if they really are worthy of the number five spot.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (5-1)
The other surprise team on this list is the Memphis Grizzles, who have already beat both the Warriors and the Rockets (twice). The Grizzlies continue to be dominate on the defensive end, while Marc Gasol and Mike Conley still look like one of the leagues best one/two punches.
3. Golden State Warriors (4-3)
Raise your hand if you think the Warriors won’t return to their rightful spot at top of the league. I’m assuming nobody raised their hand, at least I hope nobody did. The early season struggles are likely attributed to guys trying to get their legs under them after the long trip to China in the preseason. Early season struggles are normal, so look for the Warriors to regain their dominance in the next few weeks.
2. San Antonio Spurs (4-2)
The reemergence of LaMarcus Aldridge is a great sign of things to come for the Spurs this season. The Spurs, who are currently playing without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, have a few tough games coming up against Boston and Golden State this week. If Kawhi (day to day) returns this week, look for them to challenge for the top spot in the rankings
1. Houston Rockets (5-2)
The Rockets look to be in mid-season form, even without their big off-season acquisition Chris Paul. They’ve continued to hoist up 3-pointers at a historic level, shooting about 43.6 a game, but have only managed to hit at a 31.1% clip. The reliance on the 3 gave them success last year, but will it keep the Rockets on top with the Spurs and Warriors breathing down their neck? Luckily, the Rockets have a rather easy week upcoming and should be able to keep their position atop the power rankings, for now.