NBA Power Rankings: 76ers, Nuggets on top after otherwise unpredictable start; struggling Warriors at bottom
You probably wouldn't have predicted a few of the teams at the top of the list after a wild first week in the NBA
That, as they say, is why they play the games. The Los Angeles Clippers looked like the class of the NBA until running into a suddenly imposing Phoenix Suns squad. The Golden State Warriors are suddenly vying for the bottom spot in the league, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the few unbeaten squads remaining.
But some things did turn out the way we expected, namely the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets getting off to strong starts behind their young stars and deep supporting casts. Speaking of young stars, Trae Young has led the Hawks to a 2-0 start with some huge statistical performances and clutch buckets. He's quickly looking like one of the brightest young stars in the league.
After a summer with so much roster turnover, it's not surprising that we've seen so many early surprises. It will be interesting to see how things settle as the year goes on. Here is the first set of regular season Power Rankings. Now would be a good time to remind you that this is a list of the best teams in the league this week, not an indication of past or future performance.
|1||76ers||The 76ers looked great in a win over the Celtics in the opener, then handled a scrappy Pistons team without Joel Embiid on Saturday. Al Horford and Ben Simmons stepped up with Embiid out of the lineup, and Philly looks like the class of the Eastern Conference early. With the Clippers' surprising loss to the Suns, the Sixers take over the top spot.||2||7-5|
|2||Nuggets||The Nuggets struggled to beat the Suns in overtime at home, but that was before we knew Phoenix was a budding giant-slayer. They handled an always-solid Portland team in the opener despite Nikola Jokic getting into early foul trouble, then the big man put up what will likely be the first of many triple-doubles this season in the win over the Suns.||3||8-3|
|3||Timberwolves||So how many of you had the Wolves as the league's only 3-0 team after the first week? Wins over the Nets, Hornets and Heat comprised a terrific start to the season for Ryan Saunders' group. Karl-Anthony Towns has been utterly unstoppable, and Andrew Wiggins took over down the stretch in the win over Miami, earning praise from the crowd and his teammates. It might not be sustainable, but if the Wolves can defend like this they're going to be a dangerous team.||21||7-6|
|4||Hawks||If you were wondering if Trae Young could keep up his blistering pace from last season's phenomenal second half, the answer is yes. Young has been transcendent in his first two games, putting up huge numbers and hitting huge shots in wins over the Pistons and Magic. More importantly, they've been able to hold their opponents to 100 and 99 points, respectively. If Young keeps this up and the defense can just not be horrific, the Hawks have a real shot at the playoffs. But those are big ifs.||18||4-8|
|5||Clippers||The Clippers looked like the hands-down favorite and a possible 82-0 candidate ... then they lost to the Suns. The offense has been steady, but it goes to show that even the best defensive units need to focus every night in this league, no matter the opponent. The loss should just be a blip on the radar, but it keeps the Clippers out of the top spot for the time being. Lest you forget, this team will eventually add Paul George -- a terrifying thought.||3||8-5|
|6||Lakers||Seeing Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels and Quinn Cook getting key minutes in an opening night loss to the Clippers was a bit jarring, but the Lakers bounced back in a defensive battle against the Jazz, then handled the Hornets as expected. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are still sorting out their on-court chemistry, but once they get rolling the supporting cast should fall into place.||5||10-2|
|7||Spurs||The Spurs are 2-0, but they've produced narrow wins over two of the league's worst teams -- the Knicks and Wizards. Dejounte Murray has been excellent early, but the defense has shown cause for concern after a step back last season. The Spurs have a track record of beating teams they're supposed to beat, and that's exactly what they've done to start the year.||3||5-8|
|8||Suns||Break up the Suns! You have to feel good for a franchise that's struggled for so long, but keep in mind it's only the first week. A blowout win over the Kings, an overtime loss in Denver and an absolute statement win over the Clippers without Deandre Ayton and Ricky Rubio has us thinking Phoenix may actually be for real. The best part is that Devin Booker hasn't had to put up absurd scoring numbers to get wins, a sign that the winning could be sustainable.||17||7-4|
|9||Jazz||Nothing like a game against the Kings to get things back on track. The defensive issues from the preseason clearly haven't carried over, as the Utah D looks as stout as ever behind Rudy Gobert. The offense has struggled to start the year, but Donovan Mitchell has been great and Mike Conley finally started knocking down some shots. It should only go up from here as the new pieces get used to each other.||3||8-4|
|10||Mavericks||Dallas could be sitting at 3-0 were it not for an overturned foul call late in its loss to the Blazers on Sunday. Even so, the Mavs have looked impressive with Luka Doncic emerging as a legitimate early MVP candidate and Porzingis looking like his old, dominant self. The roster is deep and should make noise all the way until playoff seeds are determined.||10||7-5|
|11||Bucks||Milwaukee showed some grit with a big comeback win on opening night in a hostile Houston environment, but then suffered a rough loss to the Jimmy Butler-less Heat. Oddly enough, Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled out of both games. The Bucks haven't found a consistent way to score, launching a whopping 100 3-pointers over their first two games, but connecting on only 33 of them.||7||9-3|
|12||Rockets||Well, we thought Russell Westbrook would be the one who might struggle to adjust, but turns out it's James Harden? Russ took over in the fourth quarter of the opener to keep the Rockets close, then exploded for his first (certainly not last) triple-double of the season in a win over the Pelicans. Westbrook has provided exactly what the Rockets hoped -- frenetic energy in transition and 40 percent 3-point shooting. Harden on the other hand has been dreadful (10-42 FG, 3-26 3-pointers), which bodes well for Houston once he comes back to the norm.||5||10-3|
|13||Celtics||Boston dropped the opener to the Sixers, but then looked good in wins over the Raptors and Knicks. The scoring attack has been balanced, with four players averaging over 16 points per game -- exactly what the Celtics want. The big man situation has been rough with injuries to Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis, but the "Timelord" Robert Williams gave them some good minutes in a win over the Knicks.||4||10-1|
|14||Heat||Miami won its first two games without Jimmy Butler, including a gritty win in Milwaukee, but the magic ran out against the Wolves. Even without Dion Waiters and James Johnson, the Heat have proven themselves to be deep and talented. When Butler comes back, they could make a real run at the top half of the East.||--||9-3|
|15||Raptors||The Raptors won an overtime thriller on ring night against the Pelicans, then lost to the Celtics before destroying the Bulls. As most predicted, the Raptors look like an incredibly solid team, whose ceiling goes significantly higher if Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet can continue to progress. They both look great so far, but it's a long season.||2||8-4|
|16||Trail Blazers||A host of new players but the same formula remains effective for the Blazers: Turn things over to the electric backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The floor of this team remains high with those two healthy and Terry Stotts calling the shots, and they've started accordingly.||4||5-8|
|17||Magic||A win over the Cavs and a loss to the Hawks confirmed pretty much what we thought about the Magic this season: The defense will be good, but they'll struggle to score. One bright spot has been Markelle Fultz, who made two 3-pointers in the loss to Atlanta. They'll need his scoring punch and playmaking this season, so it's good to see him finding his bearings.||2||5-7|
|18||Nets||Kyrie Irving had one of the best debuts for a new team in NBA history, dropping 50 points and narrowly missing a potential game-winner in a loss to the Timberwolves. He was solid again in a win over the Knicks and another overtime loss, this time to the Grizzlies. Brooklyn could very well be 3-0 if the ball bounced a different way a couple of times, but as it stands it dropped two games to teams it probably should have beaten.||7||5-7|
|19||Thunder||Normally a win over the Warriors would be impressive, but they're suddenly looking like the worst team in the NBA. But it was good for the Thunder get in the win column regardless. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is already looking like a star, so the chemistry between him and Chris Paul will go a long way to determining OKC's success this season. They were all over the place in the first week (close loss to Utah, inexplicable home loss to Washington), but they'll likely settle into some consistency soon.||2||5-7|
|20||Pistons||Not having Blake Griffin is going to be a major problem for Detroit. The Pistons had an impressive win over the Pacers to open the season, then dropped two straight to the Hawks and Sixers (without Embiid). Andre Drummond and Derrick Rose have been great, but it hasn't been enough with Griffin out.||1||4-9|
|21||Wizards||The Bradley Beal one-man show is officially underway, with the All-Star averaging 24 shot attempts over his first three games. The problem is, he's only made 31 percent of them, which has led to a 1-2 Wizards record. Rookie Rui Hachimura has impressed in his first few games, so maybe Beal will get some help after all. Either way, this team isn't going to win much this season.||6||3-7|
|22||Cavaliers||Tristan Thompson made a 3-pointer, which is news in itself, but he also averaged over 20 points and 12 rebounds in the team's first two games. Kevin Love narrowly missed a triple-double in a win over the Pacers, and it looks like Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are learning to coexist. There won't be a lot of wins for the Cavs this season, so it's good to get a big one early.||6||4-7|
|23||Bulls||Allowing 126 points and losing to the Charlotte Hornets isn't a great way to start a season for a team with playoff aspirations. Chicago bounced back to beat the Grizzlies before being blown out by the Raptors. The talent is there, but the Bulls clearly have a long way to go before they can be considered anything but a lottery team.||--||4-9|
|24||Hornets||The Hornets surprised most of us by setting a franchise record for 3-pointers in a season-opening win over the Bulls. The two losses that followed were more like what we expected to see from this young group. Rookie PJ Washington has been a bright spot, setting an NBA record with seven 3-pointers in his NBA debut.||6||6-7|
|25||Pelicans||The Pelicans have been fun and are clearly full of potential, but have been bitten hard by the early injury bug. Of course Zion Williamson is out indefinitely, but the Pels also lost to the Rockets on Saturday without Jrue Holiday, who has dealt with nagging injury issues in the past. Their former Lakers, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, have looked great, but they haven't been able to defend well enough to crack the win column just yet.||6||3-9|
|26||Pacers||Going 0-2 against the Blake Griffin-less Pistons and the Cavs to start the season is less than ideal for a defending playoff team. The defense has been bad, which was a concern given the team's personel changes. On the plus side, Malcolm Brogdon has been tremendous, averaging 26.5 points and 10.5 assists on 6-of-10 3-pointers in two games.||10||7-6|
|27||Grizzlies||The Grizz picked up their first win of the year on Sunday, and what a win it was. Rookie Ja Morant had a coming out party, scoring 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, blocking Kyrie Irving on a potential game-winner to force overtime, then assisting Jae Crowder on the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired. Memphis may not win many games, but it looks like it will put a competitive and entertaining team on the floor.||2||5-7|
|28||Warriors||If there is such thing as a panic button, the Warriors have broken it from pushing it so many times already this season. The opening-night blowout loss to the Clippers was concerning, but you could play it off to first game unfamiliarity and a superior opponent. Being down 70-37 at halftime against the Thunder, however, is reason to sound the loudest alarm bells you can find. You have to believe this team will get better, but the defense has been so pathetic and the offense such a slog that right now Golden State is legitimately in the mix for the worst team in the NBA. What a difference a summer makes.||20||2-11|
|29||Knicks||The Knicks are 0-3, fans are booing Dennis Smith Jr. and chanting "We want Frank!" ... so yeah, everything is great in the Big Apple. This team has a lot to figure out on both ends of the floor, but the good news is that RJ Barrett has been tremendous offensively (21 points per game, 54 percent 3-pointers) and Kevin Knox is showing signs of life. As long as those two young players are developing, the Knicks' season is a success.||3||3-10|
|30||Kings||After a resurgent 2018-19 season, this is the last way the Kings wanted to start their first year under coach Luke Walton. They've been atrocious defensively, and suffered blowout losses to the Suns and Jazz, with a close(r) loss to Portland in between, but the offense has been the real surprise. Generating 92 points per 100 possessions makes no sense for a team this offensively potent, even with Marvin Bagley injured, so they'll have to get under the hood and figure out what's going on.||12||4-7|
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