It has been a tough start to the season for household name superstars. But nobody is feeling sorry for the Thunder, as their opponents have taken full advantage of Oklahoma City’s depleted roster. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are 1-5, the new-look LeBron James-led Cavs are 2-3, Melo’s Knicks are 2-5, and even the Spurs are 2-3, although that is sure to change. Let’s dive into our NBA power rankings for this week.
30. Sixers (0-7, Even) This will most likely be the spot for former San Antonio assistant Brett Brown’s squad all season long. Philly is being cautious with every significant player that will play a big future role. 2013 no. 6 pick Nerlens Noel is averaging 7.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.8 blocks in five games. Thankfully, making Philadelphia watchable, Tony Wroten is headstrong to break records this season, even if they are relating to turnovers.
29. Magic (2-5, Even) This young Orlando team actually has more than a couple weapons and will only continue to grow. Most notable of those weapons this week was Tobias Harris and his catch-and-shoot buzzer-beater to beat Philly.
28. Pacers (1-6, Down 3) The Pacers were arguably playing the best basketball of anybody at this time last year. Now they rely on Donald Sloan, Chris Copeland and Solomon Hill to carry the offense and it has not been an easy task.
27. T’Wolves (2-4, Down 7) Minnesota had been too dependent on Kevin Love the past several years. Again, I am a big advocate of sending Love away and gaining powerful future assets. The Wolves already see more spread out production as ten players average six points or more. Unfortunately, Ricky Rubio’s injury will hurt in a big way.
26. Lakers (1-5, Up 2) Despite their obvious struggles through six games, I refuse to say with confidence they are the worst team in the West. On another note, having Kobe Bryant does not automatically make L.A. a scary competitor mainly because its defense is egregious (far and away last in defensive efficiency).
25. Pistons (2-4, Up 2) Detroit’s sizable front-court of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is off to a better start this season. The terribly inefficient outside shooting (last in several categories) holds back this Piston team.
24. Nuggets (1-5, Down 5) Speedy veteran point guard Ty Lawson was noted in the preseason saying the Nuggets can be a top four team in the West. While that is almost certainly not happening, instilling confidence into his teammates is bold of him.
23. Bucks (3-4, Up 3) The Bucks are very likely not a playoff contender, however, I urge everyone not to sleep on this team. They have plenty of young talent and capable crunch time players. (Check out Brandon Knight’s game-winning drive to hand Memphis its first loss.)
22. Jazz (3-4, Up 2) Similar to the Bucks, this is another upcoming team with no shortage of young talent. The Jazz are already set for the long haul with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter holding down the middle and versatile swingman Gordon Hayward (see his game-winner vs. Cleveland) pacing the offense.
21. Knicks (2-5, Down 5) New York’s talent compared to last season is probably even worse. It has implemented a better system under a more reliable staff (Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher). But the theme still remains Carmelo Anthony surrounded by minimal talent and players unable to last 30 minutes a game.
20. Celtics (3-3, Up 2) Every single time I see the Celtics winning a game, I immediately think of Rajon Rondo. His impact on the game without needing to score is unmatched. Rondo had his 20th career triple-double (13 PTS, 15 AST, 10 REB) in a close loss to Toronto.
19. Hawks (2-3, Down 5) There is still no doubt in my mind Al Horford is one of the best big men in the NBA. However, Hawks fans should be slightly worried about the status of both he and the team. Mike Budenholzer is being cautious with Horford’s minutes as Al is coming off a torn right pectoral muscle.
18. Thunder (2-5, Up 3) As long as Scott Brooks’ shorthanded squad can scrap out victories here and there, OKC is likely to move up in these rankings each week until Russell Westbrook returns.
17. Nets (4-2, Up 4) Brooklyn may not miss the aging Paul Pierce as much as we expected they would. Yes, Pierce is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and a Finals MVP. But Brooklyn has adequate depth at the SG/SF spot with rookie Bojan Bogdanovic, Mirza Teletovic, and Alan Anderson to complement Joe Johnson.
16. Hornets (3-4, Up 1) This exciting, new-look team already has two emphatic game-winners by each of its All-Star caliber guards, including Lance Stephenson banking in an improbable three-pointer as time expires against Atlanta. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson help make the Hornets as intriguing a team as any in the East.
15. Suns (4-3, Down 2) The Suns are a scary team because they make these unpredictable runs that stun their opponent — Phoenix’s bench, led by Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green, exploded in the fourth quarter (36-16 advantage) to give the then-undefeated Warriors their first loss.
14. Kings (5-2, Up 4) It is too bad Sacramento finally ran out of energy in a disappointing 101-93 loss to the Reggie Jackson-led Thunder. Sacramento’s next five games could bring it back to the real world: DAL, MEM, SAN, NOR, CHI.
13. Pelicans (3-2, Up 2) Anthony Davis has not only taken over as the league’s scariest two-way big man, but he is in a fantasy (basketball) world of his own - averaging over 24 points, almost 13 rebounds, and nearly four-and-a-half blocks. The 21-year-old freak of nature is developing pretty darn quickly. I can only imagine what he will be like 2-3 years from now and beyond.
12. Bulls (5-2, Down 4) I was one to say Derrick Rose looked to have regained All-Star form during the FIBA World Championships, and yet both of his ankles continue to sideline him in the early stages of the season. I personally believe it is more about rest than him actually being unable to play.
11. Wizards (5-2, Up 1) John Wall’s career is reminiscent of a how a superstar point guard should progress. He continues to find more ways to score now that he has a respectable midrange jumper. His perimeter defense is not quite elite just yet but could very well be getting there.
10. Cavaliers (2-3, Down 5) Simply put: We have not seen enough. Time is the biggest factor in seeing how this new star-studded team progresses. David Blatt decided to bring Dion Waiters off the bench after his very poor shooting in the first couple games. He has been replaced with Shawn Marion. However, LeBron James seems to think this move is beneficiary for both Waiters and the team.
9. Mavericks (4-3, Down 8) The Mavs have scored at least 105 points in each of their four victories. Dallas relies on extremely efficient offense to win games. There issues are on defense, where Dallas is allowing the most three-pointers per game (10.9) to opponents.
8. Spurs (2-3, Down 5) Just the usual — Greg Popovich resting Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in primetime games. Apparently Pop does not see being fined as a threat. He is focused on one goal: another championship.
7. Blazers (4-3, Up 4) The Blazers have a pretty light schedule in the next couple weeks. I could definitely see them going on a big winning streak. Portland is actually playing fantastic perimeter defense thus far (No. 1 in opponent 2PT% and No. 2 in opponent 3PM) as Coach Stotts is making defensive improvement a goal for Damian Lillard.
6. Clippers (4-2, Up 1) Just another season of this nonsense on a nightly basis. One big concern is that the Clipps rank last in opponent shooting efficiency on top of a few other categories. But Chris Paul and his brilliant leadership has L.A. at top in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.943.)
5. Raptors (6-1, Up 5) The common preseason belief was that the Cavs and Bulls will be the last two standing in the East. But the more I watch Toronto play, the more I start believing they could potentially beat one of these teams. Lou Williams was the most important addition they made as he is somewhat Jamal Crawford-light. He has a shoot-first mentality and immediately provides his team with efficient scoring off the bench.
4. Grizzlies (6-1, Up 2) Memphis is almost the exact opposite of Dallas. Its success unquestionably starts with defense. The Grizz do not like to rush on offense, but are capable of running the fast break when necessary. Highly-skilled post defender Marc Gasol helps Memphis allow the least amount of free throw attempts per game.
3. Heat (5-2, Down 1) The past two years have not been easy for Luol Deng. He was traded from Chicago to Cleveland after a heartwarming display of loyalty for nearly a decade. Deng knew he would be moving on from Cleveland the following offseason. He did just that and pretty much traded places with LeBron James. Deng remains one of the ultimate two-way forwards in our league.
2. Rockets (6-1, Up 7) James Harden is moving the ball better this year, although he still halts ball movement in the big picture. Harden is averaging 25 points and seven assists, but a sky-high 4.4 turnovers. I will track the following statistic on a weekly basis: Houston/Dwight Howard ranks 28th in points in paint allowed giving up over 45 a game.
1. Warriors (5-1, Up 3) Yet another exciting Chef Curry campaign is underway and he gets better each year. He currently averages 27.7 points (3.3 3P) and 7.2 assists. His running mate Klay Thompson is good for just under 24 points and 2.6 threes per game. Golden State’s guard-play remains nasty and has become a clear problem in the West.