NBA Power Rankings: LeBron James, Luka Doncic lead Lakers, Mavs to big weeks; undefeated 76ers sit at No. 1
It was quite an entertaining week in the NBA, led by the enthralling back-and-forth between LeBron and Luka
You guys, the NBA season has officially started. On Saturday we saw the game of the year so far between the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, and the can-you-top-this battle between LeBron James and Luka Doncic was everything a basketball fan could hope for. The Lakers wound up with a 119-110 overtime win, with LeBron putting up 39 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds and Doncic matching with his own triple-double of 31 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. The tremendous individual play has both the Lakers and Mavericks moving up in this week's Power Rankings.
Neither one of them could catch our top dog, however, as the 76ers are now the league's only undefeated team thanks to the heroics of Furkan Korkmaz, of all people. Joel Embiid may have drawn attention for his kerfuffle with Karl-Anthony Towns, but don't let it distract you from the fact that the Sixers are playing some excellent basketball. The scary part is, they still have a lot of room to grow.
|1||76ers||When you come back from 21 points down on the road and win on a pirouette 3-pointer from Furkan Korkmaz, you start to think it might be a special season. Not to mention the Sixers did all this against a solid Portland team despite no Joel Embiid. As expected, Philly is swarming opponents on defense and the offense is clicking faster than some thought. Al Horford has been phenomenal early, particularly in the games without Embiid. They're the only undefeated team in the league for a reason.||--||39-26|
|2||Lakers||The Lakers haven't lost since opening night, and LeBron James is starting to look like LeBron James. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis messed around and put up a 40-20 against the Grizzlies, then Kyle Kuzma returned to the court for the first time this season. There are certainly questions about this Lakers roster, but as long as they have LeBron and A.D. they're going to be very difficult to beat -- especially if they can keep up the defense, which is currently second in the NBA.||4||49-14|
|3||Heat||The Heat are a problem. They're playing at one of the fastest paces in the league and own the league's best net rating ... and they've only had Jimmy Butler for three games. They're incredibly deep, and James Johnson finally met his conditioning requirements and made his season debut in the blowout win over the Rockets with 17 points, to make Miami even deeper. It's safe to say that Meyers Leonard won't shoot 60 percent on 3-pointers for the entire season, but right now the Heat are one of the most dangerous teams in the league.||11||41-24|
|4||Clippers||The Clippers lost on the road to Utah in the first of many inevitable "load management" games for Kawhi Leonard. They got their revenge at home on Sunday, however, and Leonard looked every bit of the MVP candidate he's projected to be while scoring 18 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. This team is already a well-oiled machine, which will only get more devastating with the return of Paul George.||1||44-20|
|5||Celtics||Boston lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford this offseason, and have seen injuries to three of their centers so far, yet here they are at 4-1 with a top-10 defense and top-15 offense. They picked up a convincing win against the Bucks after erasing a 19-point deficit, and the small closing lineup of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum has been effective in limited minutes. Their only blemish so far is a loss to the top-ranked 76ers on opening night.||8||43-21|
|6||Bucks||The Bucks lost to the Celtics, but got a big win over the Raptors, who savagely ousted them from last year's playoffs, thanks to a monster game from Giannis Antetokounmpo. He looks just as unstoppable as ever, but Milwaukee has gotten into a concerning habit of blowing big leads.||5||53-12|
|7||Mavericks||Luka. Luka. Luka. As if his showdown with LeBron weren't enough, he followed it up with a 29-15-14 triple-double to beat the Cavs. With the Warriors clearly out of playoff consideration, the Mavericks could be the leaders in the clubhouse to take their spot, especially as Kristaps Porzingis continues to acclimate himself back into the NBA grind.||3||40-27|
|8||Suns||After another one-point loss -- this time to the Jazz -- the Suns beat up on the lowly Warriors and Grizzlies. It may not seem like much, but it wasn't long ago that the Suns were the ones getting beat up on, so this is quite a positive step. Monty Williams has his team third in the NBA in net rating (they finished 29th last season), and has staked his claim as the early Coach of the Year favorite.||--||26-39|
|9||Timberwolves||The Wolves suffered their first loss of the season in the Joel Embiid-Karl-Anthony Towns cage match in Philly, but they bounced back to absolutely destroy the Wizards with Towns serving his suspension. After not playing much of the season, Gorgui Dieng stepped into Towns' role and had a great game, as did Robert Covington, Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins. It's still early, but it seems like the positive culture change Minnesota has been craving may finally be here.||6||19-45|
|10||Raptors||Pascal Siakam is averaging 26 points per game on 49-42-96 shooting. Let that sink in. Not suggesting they're even close to the same player, but last season Kawhi Leonard averaged 26.6 points on 50-37-85 shooting. If Siakam can even approximate the numbers he's put up so far, the Raptors have another bona fide superstar on their hands. With a veteran roster around him and Nick Nurse's proven system, Toronto hasn't actually taken a huge step back -- at least in the regular season.||5||46-18|
|11||Spurs||After a win over the Blazers last Monday, the Spurs lost their first two games of the season to the L.A. teams, with a win over the ragtag Warriors in between. The defense has been marginally better and Dejounte Murray has looked incredible, so there's reason to be optimistic in San Antonio.||4||27-36|
|12||Nuggets||Denver is 4-2, but has a negative net rating ... not ideal for a team with title hopes. The Nuggets did bounce back from back-to-back losses with a hard-fought win in Orlando to close out their road trip. In the two losses Nikola Jokic had single-digit shot attempts, a disappointing sign since we thought those days were behind him. As great of a passer as Jokic is, sometimes he's unselfish to a fault. When he's aggressive looking for his own shot, it opens everything up for the Nuggets.||10||43-22|
|13||Jazz||Utah beat the Suns by a single point, beat the Kawhi-less Clippers, then gave the Kings their first win of the season before losing to the Kawhi-led Clippers. So this week the wins weren't all that impressive and the loss to the Kings was rough. The Jazz are once again the top defense in the league, but offense has been a struggle partly due to Mike Conley's early difficulties finding his role. They'll likely get better as the season goes on, but as of now the defense has to pitch shutouts to get wins.||4||41-23|
|14||Pacers||Indiana came storming back from an 0-3 start with wins over the Nets, Cavs and Bulls this week. The last one came with both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner out of the lineup, leaving rookie Goga Bitadze to fill in admirably at center. Malcolm Brogdon has taken the reins of the offense and has been spectacular, averaging 22.5 points and 9.7 assists per game compared to just 2.8 turnovers. The team has also won three out of four games with Jeremy Lamb in the lineup.||12||39-26|
|15||Trail Blazers||Portland has some big man issues with Zach Collins having shoulder surgery and Hassan Whiteside missing the team's loss to Philly with a banged up knee. That would have been a huge win for the Blazers, but they got Korked and fell to 3-3 on the season. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are doing what they always do, but the offense as a whole has been much worse than last season due to the injuries and new pieces.||1||29-37|
|16||Rockets||It was a bad week for the Rockets. They gave up 158 points in a win over the Wizards, then lost to the Nets, then received an absolute drubbing at the hands of the Miami Heat. Austin Rivers said it best: "We're not playing any defense." At this point Houston is fortunate to be 3-3, but it can take solace in the fact that James Harden is shooting horribly from the field (37 percent field goals, 21.5 percent 3-pointers) and he's still leading the league in scoring. But Harden can score 60 points per game and it won't matter until they improve on their horrific defense.||4||40-24|
|17||Pistons||The Pistons had great wins this week over the Pacers and Nets, but a loss to the Bulls certainly stings. Andre Drummond has been playing out of his mind, averaging 22 points, 19 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in Blake Griffin's absence. Derrick Rose has been an excellent spark plug off the bench as expected, but the rest of the rotation is inconsistent. They got a huge game from Bruce Brown (22 points, seven assists) with Reggie Jackson out against the Nets, so that could give the young wing some confidence moving forward.||3||20-46|
|18||Nets||In the Nets' loss to the Pistons on Saturday, Kyrie Irving checked out with four minutes left in the third quarter with his team up by four. When he returned with eight minutes left in the fourth, Brooklyn was down by 13. Irving proceeded to take 10 shots in the fourth quarter -- almost as many as he took in the first three quarters combined -- as he brought his team back, but it wasn't enough. You could see the frustration on Irving's face and body language, as the Nets surely aren't off to the start he hoped for.||--||30-34|
|19||Thunder||OKC has only won two games, but actually has a positive net rating -- clearly aided by its early 28-point win over the Warriors. This week the Thunder lost to the Rockets and Blazers before beating the Pelicans at home. They've been without Steven Adams for the last two games due to a knee contusion, and he'll help once he gets back into the lineup.||--||40-24|
|20||Hawks||Atlanta suffered a close loss to the 76ers before Trae Young hurt his ankle, leading to back-to-back losses to the Heat. Obviously Young is a huge part of the Hawks offense (third in the NBA in usage rate, behind James Harden and Kawhi Leonard), so it makes sense that they would struggle until he's able to return. When he was healthy, however, the Hawks looked capable of making a playoff push, so we'll see if they can get back to that form.||16||20-47|
|21||Hornets||Not many people probably expected the Hornets to be .500 at this point in the season, but here we are. Their wins have been the result of scorching hot 3-point shooting, which came back down to earth in a narrow win over the severley depleted Warriors on Saturday. But still, wins are wins, and PJ Washington and Devonte' Graham have been pleasant surprises. They may not finish .500, but early on the Hornets have kept themselves a notch above the bottom tier.||3||23-42|
|22||Magic||So far the Magic look like a prime candidate to drop out of the Eastern Conference playoffs. They have by far the wost offense in the NBA, scoring just 94.6 points per 100 possessions in their first six games -- yes, even worse than the Grizzlies and Knicks. They're also last in the league in 3-point shooting at 28 percent, which could just be a cold start but isn't that surprising considering the roster makeup. Orlando has a lot of work to do offensively with the top half of the East looking solid this season.||5||30-35|
|23||Kings||The Kings are officially out of "worst team in the league" contention after picking up their first two wins of the season against the Jazz and Knicks. Luke Walton named the team's trip to India as a cause for their early-season struggles, so we'll see whether they can keep up their winning ways now that the jetlag has finally worn off.||7||28-36|
|24||Cavaliers||Kevin Love is upping his trade value by the day, putting up 19.2 points and 15.3 rebounds per game and Tristan Thompson has been rejuvenated, but once again Cleveland has had trouble putting the ball in the basket while allowing a lot of points -- a familiar recipe for losses. Their win this week was over the Bulls, while they lost to the Bucks, Pacers and Mavericks.||2||19-46|
|25||Bulls||It wasn't a great week for the Bulls, losing to the Knicks, Cavaliers and Pacers while beating the Pistons. Rebounding has been a major problem early on -- they're last in the NBA with a 46.3 rebounding percentage. Zach LaVine is averaging nearly as many turnovers as assists and Coby White cooled off after a hot start. Wendell Carter has been solid, but Lauri Markkanen has shot poorly from the field after a great opening game. There's a lot to work to do in Chicago if they're going to make a push for the playoffs, as some thought they might.||2||22-43|
|26||Wizards||The Wiz lost both their games this week and gave up a whole lot of points in the process (159 to the Rockets, 131 to the Wolves). If you're looking for a silver lining, they did score 158 against the Rockets -- most people probably didn't think this offense was capable of that type of number. Bradley Beal has been as expected and Isaiah Thomas has been a feel-good story in his three games so far this season (16.3 points, 7.3 assists per game), but Washington isn't going to intimidate many opponents.||5||24-40|
|27||Pelicans||This wasn't the start most expected for the Pelicans, even after the news of the Zion Williamson injury. Brandon Ingram is having a breakout year, but the team's defense has just been awful. They are the only team in the league to lose to the Warriors, and followed up a national TV win over the Nuggets with a loss to the Thunder. So far this team's been hard to peg, but they seem better than their record. Jrue Holiday has struggled to start the year, but that likely won't last too much longer given his track record.||2||28-36|
|28||Knicks||Not much of a surprise here, but the Knicks have struggled out of the gate. They got their first win of the season on Monday against the Bulls, but followed that up with losses to the Magic, Celtics and Kings. The Knicks have struggled to find offense outside of the occasional Marcus Morris explosion (29 points against his former Celtics). RJ Barrett, the franchise's only source of hope at the moment, has played well in big minutes so far.||1||21-45|
|29||Warriors||We all know the Warriors' dismal story by now, and judging by the injuries it's not going to get better anytime soon. Saturday's loss to the Hornets might have been their only winnable game for a while, and they started a lineup of Ky Bowman, Jordan Poole, Glenn Robinson III, Eric Paschall and Willie Cauley-Stein. If D'Angelo Russell can get healthy, he'll have full control of the offense, but their league-worst defense won't have much luck against most teams in the league.||1||15-50|
|30||Grizzlies||The Grizzlies are the proud owners of the worst net rating in the NBA at minus-11.7, but they do play an exciting brand of basketball with Ja Morant leading the charge. The rookie is averaging 18.8 points on 51 percent shooting and 50 percent 3-pointers to open his career. Jaren Jackson Jr. has continued to struggle with foul trouble, something he surely hoped wouldn't follow him from last season. Jonas Valanciunas has been good in limited minutes, and could help contribute to more wins once he's cleared to get more playing time.||3||32-33|
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